RALEIGH, N.C. - Senior rightfielder Drew Poulk highlighted a five-run second inning with a grand slam home run as hard-hitting North Carolina State University (29-18) dealt the Tigers (16-32) a 14-5 non-conference loss in the opening game of their three-game weekend series at Doak Park on Friday evening.
For the Tigers, it was their fourth loss in a row.
The Wolfpack banged out 13 base hits, including three home runs, in the win over Towson. NC State also took advantage of seven walks, three hit batters and three Tiger errors.
Senior righthander Austin Hurd struggled from the opening pitch against the Wolfpack. In the bottom of the first inning, he walked the leadoff hitter, senior second baseman Dallas Poulk, on four pitches. When Hurd also walked sophomore designated hitter Pratt Maynard, the Wolfpack had two runners on base with no outs.
After Hurd retired Drew Poulk on a ground ball to first base, NC State had two runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly to right field by sophomore first baseman Harold Riggins gave the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead with two outs. Sophomore third baseman Andrew Ciencin drove in the second run of the inning when he accounted for the Wolfpack's first hit of the game, an RBI double to left field. Junior catcher Chris Schaeffer was retired on a fly ball to end the rally.
When NC State took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, it marked the eighth consecutive game that the Tigers fell behind in the first inning.
In the second inning, the Tigers came right back and tied the score. With one out, junior designated hitter Steve Rice reached on an infield single to shortstop. After junior third baseman Austin Harclerode struck out, freshman leftfielder Kurt Wertz launched a two-run homer over the right field fence. Wertz's fifth homer of the season tied the game at 2-2.
The Wolfpack regained the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Freshman leftfielder Tarran Senay drew a walk to lead off the inning. Sophomore centerfielder John Gianis followed with a single to centerfield, giving the Wolfpack a pair of base runners with no outs. Hurd came back and struck out freshman shortstop Matt Bergquist for the first out of the inning before Hurd retired Dallas Poulk on a foul popup to the catcher. However, he loaded the bases when he issued a walk to Maynard.
On a 3-2 pitch, Drew Poulk blasted his eighth home run of the season over the left field fence. His grand slam homer gave the Wolfpack a 6-2 lead and knocked Hurd out of the game.
In 1.2 innings of work, Hurd allowed six runs on only three hits. However, he walked four batters and all of them scored. He had one strikeout.
Hurd was relieved by junior righthander Charlie Cononie. Riggins greeted Cononie with an infield single to keep the inning alive. When Ciencin hit his second double of the game, Riggins scored to give NC State a 7-2 lead. Cononie finally ended the inning when he retired Schaeffer on a fly ball to centerfield.
Trailing by 7-2 in the third inning, the Tigers tried to rally to get back in the game. Junior shortstop Nick Natoli led off with a double down the left field line. At that point, freshman righthander Felix Roque, the starting pitcher for the Wolfpack, was pulled out of the game after pitching only two innings.
Roque was relieved by sophomore lefthander Nate King, who experienced issues with his control. He threw a wild pitch that enabled Natoli to reach third base while walking senior rightfielder Kevin Collins on four pitches. When he issued a five-pitch walk to senior first baseman Steve Yarsinsky to load the bases, King's evening was over. Freshman righthander Ethan Ogburn came in from the bullpen as the Wolfpack's third pitcher of the inning.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Ogburn got junior second baseman Chris Wychock to hit into a double play while Natoli scored to make it a 7-3 game. Then he ended the inning by striking out Rice.
After Cononie shut down the Wolfpack in the bottom of the third, the Tigers cut into their deficit in the fourth inning as they loaded the bases with no outs for the second straight inning. Harclerode led off the inning with a single to centerfield as he extended his hitting streak to 20 consecutive games. Then Wertz doubled to leftcenter field, putting two runners in scoring position. A walk to freshman catcher Andrew Parker loaded the bases,
Ogburn got sophomore centerfielder Ben Winter to hit into a force play as Parker was out at second base while Harclerode scored to cut the deficit to 7-4. A sacrifice fly by Natoli plated Wertz to make it a 7-5 lead. But Ogburn retired Collins on a ground ball to first base, ending the threat.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Wolfpack added another run to increase its lead to 8-5. Riggins' double to right centerfield started the rally. With Riggins on second base, Cononie hit Ciencin with a pitch. When he walked Schaeffer, NC State had the bases loaded. Then Cononie hit Senay with a pitch, forcing in a run as Ciencin scored to give the Wolfpack an 8-5 advantage. At that point, Cononie was relieved by sophomore righthander Tyler Austin. Austin pitched out of the inning by getting Gianis to fly out to leftfield.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Wolfpack increased its lead to 12-5 with the help of three Towson errors. Drew Poulk reached base when Harclerode made an error to open the inning. With Natoli made an error on a ground ball by Riggins, the Wolfpack had two runners on base. As Drew Poulk and Riggins pulled off a double steal, Parker made a throwing error, allowing Poulk to score while Riggins went to third base. After a walk to Ciencin put runners on first and third base, Schaeffer grounded into a fielder's choice as Harclerode threw Riggins out at home plate. Senay's sacrifice fly to centerfield enabled Ciencin to score the second run of the inning. When Gianis blasted his second home run of the season over the rightfield fence, NC State's lead had grown to 12-5. Junior righthander Tyler Bugna came out of the bullpen to end the inning by retiring Bergquist on a ground ball back to the mound.
In the bottom of the sixth, NC State scored four unearned runs on only one hit.
Maynard's solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning upped the lead to 13-5. It was his eighth homer of the season. With two outs, the Wolfpack added another run. Riggins started the rally with a single to left. When Ciencin also singled and Schaeffer was hit by a pitch, NC State had the bases loaded again. A single to rightfield by Senay scored one run but Collins threw out pinch runner Chris Diaz at home plate as he tried to score from second base.
After the Tigers scored five runs in the first four innings, the Wolfpack bullpen shut them out on three hits over the final five innings.
Ogburn, who earned the first win of his college career, pitched four innings of relief for the Wolfpack. He allowed two runs on three hits while issuing one walk and striking out four batters. Junior lefthander Nick Rice also threw a scoreless inning while Maynard pitched one scoreless inning.
Ciencin, Gianis and Riggins led NC State with three hits each. Ciencin was three-for-three with a walk and two runs batted in while Gianis was three-for-five with two RBI's. Riggins was three-for-four and scored two runs. Drew Poulk was one-for-six with four RBI's.
Wertz led the Tigers' eight-hit attack with the first four-hit game of his college career. He was four-for-four with a homer, a double, two runs scored and two runs batted in. He was the only Tigers with more than one hit.
Austin was the Tigers' most effective pitcher. In two innings of work, he allowed four unearned runs on only one hit. He also walked one and had two strikeouts.
The Tigers and the Wolfpack will play the second game of their three-game series on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.