The genesis of N.C. State’s 6-0 win at East Carolina on Wednesday night came Saturday at Fenway Park.
That’s where the Wolfpack played Boston College in an ALS Awareness game. NCSU senior left-hander Sean Adler had a brief outing in his 10th start of the season.
The Southern Cal transfer had been State’s Friday night guy against some ACC heavyweights but he threw just 22 pitches before he was pulled in an 8-3 loss to BC.
The Pack and Adler ventured into Clark-LeClair Stadium with something to prove after getting swept by the Eagles (16-22).
Adler was able to go in the midweek matchup because of his limited pitch count. He experienced another rocky start as Wesley Phillips and Charlie Yorgen each singled into right field for the Pirates to start the bottom of the first inning.
But Adler escaped another early hook against some of ECU’s biggest bats. He struck out Eric Tyler and got Tyler Watkins to ground into a double play.
That was the turning point in the analysis of Pirates coach Cliff Godwin.
“We did not do a good job offensively,” Godwin said. “Really didn’t execute our plan. The game was lost, in my opinion, in the first inning when we had the first and third and no outs and don’t score a run right there. I really thought that allowed their guy to settle in and he was way better than we were last night.”
Adler was king of the hill for five and one-third innings. He allowed just three hits after the opening salvo from Phillips and Yorgen. He struck out one and fanned seven.
Joe O’Donnell and Austin Staley completed the shutout, subduing the Pirate faithful among a gathering of 4,181.
Pirates have had their share of misfortune
Adler’s comeback outing is just the latest of misfortunes to beset ECU (22-20).
Godwin isn’t given to excuses but the facts speak for themselves.
“Pretty much anything that could go wrong this year has gone wrong,” Godwin said. “Four key players get injured — Bryce Harman, Evan Kruczynski, Dwanya (Williams-Sutton) and Chris Holba. We had to remove a player (Joe Ingle) from the team who has had a lot of success here. It’s not how you draw it up.
“The season’s not over, but, obviously, we’re not where we want to be right now. At the end of the day, we can’t change anything in the past. We’ve got to move forward and continue to focus on getting better.”
Ingle, a junior who had 22 career saves, was dismissed from the program just prior to a 9-5 win at UNC-Wilmington on April 18.
“All I’ll say about that is, no one person is bigger than the program,” Godwin said. “Not myself, not any player on our team and as long as I’m the coach here, not one person will ever be better than East Carolina baseball.”
Kruz makes a difference
The Pirates have Harman, Kruczynski and Williams-Sutton back. Kruczynski has returned from a leg fracture and contributed eight innings in a one-hitter as ECU got its first American Athletic Conference win, 6-0, at Cincinnati on Saturday.
“He pitched great,” Godwin said. “Kruz has pitched a lot of big games for us in the past two-and-a-half years. He pitched phenomenal. … He gave up one hit to the third batter of the game and then retired 22 straight. That’s the most impressive pitching performance we’ve had all year. …
“He’s going to continue to get more healthy. He’s not 100 percent right now. His leg probably won’t feel great for another couple of months. He’s a warrior. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. … His pitching performance last weekend came at a very opportune time. We needed that.”
The Pirates had a breakout game offensively on Sunday, mauling the Bearcats, 14-3, as Watkins went 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBIs.
ECU returned to exams and rain in Greenville but Godwin said those factors didn’t impact preparation for the Wolfpack.
“We deal with weather all the time,” Godwin said. “We’re an outside sport. It had nothing to do with the way we played.”
Judging from the unprecedented grade-point averages the Pirates have compiled under Godwin, a former academic All-American, the players can handle end-of-semester demands in the classroom, too.
An 11:30 a.m. practice was set for Thursday to accommodate the exam schedule.
“We’ll try and get better,” Godwin said. “The offense is inconsistent but we’re leading the league in hitting. It’s inconsistent. We have games that we score 14 runs and we get shut out. There needs to be more consistency. We scored 14 runs on Sunday. We just didn’t score (Wednesday). It’s baseball. We needed to put together better at-bats (Wednesday) night but it’s not like we don’t have a good offense.
“N.C. State was hitting .261 going into last night and we were hitting .302. Who would you rather have on paper? But that’s why you play the game. They did a better job against our pitchers than we did. … They started their weekend starter but that’s not the reason we lost. … We lost because we didn’t swing the bats.”
One wonders how the game with State would have unfolded if Kruczynski had been toeing the rubber for ECU.
Godwin wasn’t presented with that scenario, but he knows the fans come out to see regional rivals.
“It’s a big game,” Godwin said. “It’s N.C. State. It’s a rivalry game. If you can’t get ready and put your best foot forward against them, then something’s wrong. … We lost (Wednesday) night. They were better than us (Wednesday) night. We hate losing to anybody.”
Godwin planned to meet with pitching coach Dan Roszel on Thursday morning to discuss the rotation for the AAC series at home with Tulane that gets going tonight at 6:30.
“It will be Kruczynski, Trey Benton and (Jake) Agnos,” Godwin said. “We’re just not sure what order we’re going to go in yet.”
Godwin said that, ideally, the Pirates would like to get Kruczynski back in his customary Friday night slot.
The Green Wave is 21-21 after a 3-12 start. Tulane completed a season sweep of LSU with a 9-6 win in New Orleans on Tuesday night. The Wave is 8-4 in league play.
“They haven’t had the injuries we’ve had,” Godwin said. “They have a new coach (Travis Jewett). I’m sure it took some time to get used to the new coaching staff. They were expected to be at the top of the league as well. They have a lot of returners from last year’s regional team. They’re experienced. They’re very good. They’re very talented. They’re a very good team.”