Elliott Avent had a plan.
The N.C. State coach trotted out to the mound as starter Johnny Piedmonte stood with the ball in his left-handed glove. Piedmonte had thrown his 16th pitch of the day to his fifth batter, a walk that followed three consecutive doubles and a fly out to center field.
Though the deficit was a single run, Avent stepped onto the Cliff Hagan Stadium field with his plan in mind; save Piedmonte for a better time and a better matchup and rely on his bullpen to right the ship.
A group effort frustrated and threw Indiana off balance in the following innings, and N.C. State played enough mistake-free baseball to nip the Hoosiers 7-6 in 12 innings Friday in its opening game of the Lexington Regional.
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“I thought Indiana was getting really good swings on (Piedmonte),” Avent said. “We made the decision to go to the bullpen early. We went to Cody Beckman in a similar situation (earlier this season), and he did incredible. He did great tonight.”
Beckman pitched 2 1/3 innings and allowed a run on two hits before handing the ball to Joe O’Donnell for 4 2/3 innings of one-run baseball as the Wolfpack rallied to within a run.
“Joe has done everything for us,” Avent said. “I talked to Joe, who is usually in the back end for us, and told him that I think you’re the guy for Indiana.”
O’Donnell himself assumed a 4-2 deficit and shook the aggressive Hoosiers lineup, which led the Big Ten in home runs, with a bevy of off-speed pitches.
“The biggest thing was, we were getting ahead of hitters,” O’Donnell said. “Getting ahead with the first pitch was huge all night because then we could work out of the zone and get them to chase our pitches.”
Shortstop Joe Dunand tied the score in the eighth inning with a long solo home run. Enter Tommy DeJuneas from the bullpen, who pitched three scoreless innings and earned the win in the 12th inning.
N.C. State grabbed the lead in the 12th on a pair of Indiana miscues. Garrett Suggs entered the game in the ninth inning and hit for the first time to lead off the Wolfpack 12th. Suggs singled and advanced to third base on a potential double-play grounder in the next at-bat that was mishandled on a bad hop by Indiana shortstop Jeremy Houston.
Suggs scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat, and designated hitter Brad Debo drove in another run with an RBI single, which eventually rewarded the bullpen of a long day’s work.
Sean Adler relieved DeJuneas and allowed an RBI triple before earning the final out and the save.
With potentially four games in three days on the schedule, the only negatives to the bullpen’s heavy use is the length that O’Donnell (69 pitches), Beckman (51) and DeJuneas (48) stretched out on Friday. O’Donnell and Beckman are done for the rest of the weekend save a Monday winner-take-all game, and DeJuneas likely will not be available Saturday.
Piedmonte, however, should be available as needed when the Wolfpack play Kentucky at 7 p.m. Saturday. Avent did not name a starting pitcher for Saturday after the game.