GREENVILLE, N.C. – A win is a win is a win, and NC State will take this one but it was not a thing of beauty. Errors were the order of the day Wednesday at Clark-LeClair Stadium. NC State and East Carolina committed six errors apiece and the two teams combined for eight unearned runs, but the Wolfpack outplayed the Pirates offensively when it counted, the late innings, scoring five runs in the seventh and eighth innings to record an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over the Pirates.
NC State, which improved to 8-6 with the win, now has won four games in a row, five of its last six, and nine of its last 12. The Wolfpack has won eight of the last 11 meetings with East Carolina. The Pirates dropped to 24-14 with the loss.
NC State used seven pitchers, and they combined to allow just one earned run on eight hits. Sophomore righthander Mike Russo (2-0) got the win by recording the final out of the seventh inning. Junior lefthander Grant Sasser worked the final 1 2/3 innings for his second save. Sasser walked two, but he did not allow a hit and recorded a strikeout, and wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam with the go-ahead run on base in the bottom of the eighth. Shawn Armstrong (0-2), the third of four ECU pitchers, took the loss after allowing three runs, all earned, on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Dallas Poulk led off the game for the Wolfpack and extended his current hitting streak to 10 games with a single up the middle. Pratt Maynard hit a dribbler off the end of the bat and up the third-base line, advancing Poulk to second base, and Drew Poulk chased his cousin home with a single that tipped off the glove of shortstop John Wooten and into shallow center field to give NC State a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates threatened in the bottom of the first, putting their first two runners on base and loading the bases with two down, but starting pitcher Felix Roque got key outs by striking out the dangerous Kyle Roller and getting groundouts from Wooten and Devin Harris.
The Wolfpack added a run in the top of the fourth. Harold Riggins led off with a single through the left side of the infield, and Andrew Ciencin grounded into a force play, erasing Riggins at second base. Chris Schaeffer walked, and John Gianis lined a single down the left-field line, driving in Ciencin to make it 2-0.
East Carolina finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Austin Homan worked reliever John Lambert for a one-out walk. Devin Harris singled to left, and Harold Riggins overran the ball for an error, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Zach Wright’s sacrifice fly scored Homan to slice the Wolfpack lead to a run at 2-1.
Jared Avchen led off the bottom of the fifth against reliever Vance Williams and grounded to second, but was safe when Dallas Poulk boxed the ball for an error. Trent Whitehead walked. Corey Thompson grounded to shortstop, but Matt Bergquist’s throw to second was wide of the bag for an error, loading the bases with none out. Williams got Roller to line out to shortstop, but Wooten got one run home on a grounder to second base, and Homan greeted reliever Nate King with a run-scoring infield single, giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead.
NC State got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth. Danny Canela led off and reached on an error by Wooten and ECU starter Brad Mincey hit Riggins with a pitch. Ciencin advanced the runners with a slow roller back to the pitcher, and Schaeffer got Canela home with a grounder to shortstop, cutting the lead to 4-3.
The errors and unearned runs theme continued in the top of the seventh, and NC State took advantage. Bergquist led off and bunted right back to Mincey, but his throw pulled Roller off the bag at first for an error. Jake Harris came on in relief for the Pirates, and the second batter he faced, Maynard, took him deep the other way, a two-run homer to left that put the Wolfpack back on top at 5-4.
The 5-4 lead lasted all of three batters into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Roller belted a solo homer to straightaway center field for East Carolina’s only earned run of the game, tying the game at 5-5.
The Wolfpack broke the tie with a big eighth inning, beginning with back-to-back, one-out doubles by Schaeffer and Gianis. Wright overran Gianis’s double down the left-field line for an error, allowing Gianis to go to third on the play. Chris Diaz pinch-hit for Bergquist and fisted a single into shallow center field, just over the outstretched glove of second baseman Cameron Freeman. Gianis scored on the play, and Drew Poulk’s RBI double down the right-field line made it 8-5.
Wright led off the bottom of the eighth and singled to right field. Freeman followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and second with none out. Avchen hit a grounder to Diaz at shortstop. Diaz flipped to Dallas Poulk for the force on Freeman at second base, but Poulk’s relay to first was over Canela’s head, and Wright scored all the way from second to cut the lead to 8-6.
NC State will return to action on Friday in the first game of a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series with Boston College at Doak Field at Dail Park.
ECU will head to Houston for a three game Conference USA series against Rice on Friday.