NC State’s explosive first inning powers the Wolfpack to victory over George Mason

Daniel Wilson

RALEIGH, N.C. — NC State (10-8, 1-2 ACC) overcame a rocky top of the first and propelled itself to a win against George Mason (6-11) Wednesday afternoon at Doak Field, 7-3.

“We played good in some brutal conditions,” head coach Elliott Avent said. “We got off to a shaky start, but we did a pretty good job.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Cory Wilder got the call to start for the Wolfpack and handed the ball off to junior right-hander Evan Brabrand (1-0, 5.23 ERA) after only recording an out. Wilder was credited with an earned run after leaving the game with three walks and a strikeout.

Brabrand picked up the win with 3-2/3 innings of work. The Raleigh native surrendered two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out three. Freshman righty Michael Bienlien succeeded him and silenced the Patriots offense, only allowing two hits and a walk while striking out a career-high six batters in 4-2/3 innings. Freshman lefty Kent Klyman relieved Bienlien and recorded the game’s final out.

“I wanted to attack hitters and get quick, efficient outs,” Bienlien said. “I had a good feel for all three pitches today.”

Junior shortstop Joe Dunand finished 1-for-4 at the plate, but his single hit was a grand slam in the bottom of the first that gave State the lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Junior third baseman Evan Mendoza provided the Wolfpack’s only multi-hit performance, finishing 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run.

After walking home a run in the top of the first, the Pack plated five runs in the home half of the first. Junior center fielder Josh McLain led off with a double down the left-field line. Freshman second baseman Will Wilson followed with a single after which sophomore left fielder Brett Kinneman walked to load the bases. Junior third baseman Evan Mendoza drove McLain home with an infield single before Dunand cleared the bags with his four-run four-bagger, his fifth home run of the season.

The Wolfpack tacked on another run in the second inning. After a fly out to start the frame, Kinneman and Mendoza hit back-to-back singles. Two batters later, sophomore designated hitter Christian Demby plated Kinneman with a base hit into left field.

The final insurance run came in the bottom of the fifth. Junior catcher Andy Cosgrove walked to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. McLain followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice with the catcher getting caught in a rundown between first and second. Wilson drew a walk with McLain reaching third on stolen bases during his at-bat. After Wilson baited a throw to catch Wilson stealing second, McLain scored on a Patriots’ fielding error on the stolen base attempt.

The Wolfpack will return to action on Friday as NC State will host ACC foe Miami for a three-game set in the team’s first home conference series of the season. First pitch for Friday’s contest is set for 6:30 pm.

“We’re playing better,” Avent said. “We’ve played [the last two games] with intensity and focus. We know we’re still not playing as good as we need to play, but we’re playing better.”

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