Assistant coach Scott Foxhall was greeted by boos from the N.C. State crowd at Doak Field when he walked to the mound with one out to go in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon.
The fans wanted Wolfpack starter Johnny Piedmonte to finish the 17-1 win over Navy in the NCAA tournament.
Foxhall had another idea.
“Enjoy the moment,” Foxhall said as he reached up and patted the 6-8 Piedmonte on the shoulder.
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The junior certainly earned the ovation, and subsequent curtain call, after nearly going to the distance to save the Wolfpack’s season.
N.C. State (37-21) will face Coastal Carolina (46-15) on Monday at 1 p.m. If N.C. State wins that game, the teams will play again at 6 p.m.
N.C. State had to get by Navy (43-16-1) to set up the second chance at Coastal Carolina. In his first start since April 19, and first win in 17 starts going back to last March 8, Piedmonte delivered just what a weary Wolfpack lineup needed.
After two marathon days at the ballpark, N.C. State needed a clean, no-nonsense start and Piedmonte delivered with his first win since March 2015.
Piedmonte struck out seven, gave up a run on six hits and threw 125 pitches. On the 112th in the ninth, he hit 91 miles per hour on the radar gun in a pitch to Navy’s Hayden Spalding.
“I wanted to save the bullpen and give everything I had,” Piedmonte said.
He did that, and then some, for his second career win. It hasn’t been an easy road for Piedmonte, who missed his first two college seasons after recovering from an elbow injury.
He worked his way into the rotation last year and started two of the most important games of the season – the ACC championship game and the regional final at Texas Christian.
He was a regular in the rotation this season, starting the season-opener, but only had one start that lasted 5 innings this season.
“He’s the kind of guy you root for because he has been through so much,” senior designated hitter Chance Shepard said.
Shepard helped out his roommate with three hits, including his second home run of the regional, and five RBI.
That was all the offense Piedmonte needed but he got 17 runs and 19 hits, including home runs from Andrew Knizner and Joe Dunand, who had four hits.
“He had all of his pitches working,” said Knizner, the catcher. “They didn’t get a solid hit all day.”
For Piedmonte, it was a continuation of his last outing – the 12th inning in N.C. State’s 7-5 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament. Piedmonte struck out the only three batters he faced.
“I had a lot of confidence going into the start,” Piedmonte said.
It showed and now N.C. State has to figure out a way to carry that confidence over to Coastal Carolina. The Wolfpack scored 30 runs in two games against Navy but scratched out only four hits and was blanked by the Chanticleers.
Sunday was a welcomed weather relief for all parties at Doak Field. Friday’s game between N.C. State and Navy was interrupted by rain and lightning and didn’t end until after 2 a.m. on Saturday.
Saturday’s game between N.C. State and Coastal Carolina was delayed by lightning and the two teams played into early Sunday morning before it was called with five outs left.
Twelve hours after the teams left Doak Field, the Chanticleers added a run to their 3-0 lead in their half of the ninth and then N.C. State went down in order to break a nine-game home winning streak in the NCAA tournament.
N.C. State figured out how to beat Navy twice. Now it will have have to do the same against Coastal Carolina to win the regional.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio