by Mike Potter
DURHAM ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM N.C. Central hosts yet another challenging baseball battle with an ACC foe, this time an N.C. State team that's looking for its first road win of the season.
The Eagles are looking for their first win anywhere, and really haven't kept more than a couple of games competitive so far this season.
Because the weather forecast isn't good, the game will have a 3 p.m. start - sort of - instead of the regularly scheduled 6 p.m. starting time. It's the first of their two scheduled meetings this season, as the Eagles will visit Doak Field at Dail Park on April 13.
Jeff Citero (0-1, 9.82), a junior out of Southeast Raleigh, will be on the mound for the Eagles while the Wolfpack sends big sophomore Mike Russo (0-0, 6.14).
It's competitive from the start, but the Wolfpack scores in every inning, hitting five homers in a 24-6 romp.
The Wolfpack gets a run in the first as Dallas Poulk rips a one-out double to left, steals third and scores on a throwing error to catcher David Scott.
NCCU ties it in the bottom of the frame as Nate Smith blasts a 3-1 offering over the right-field wall.
State adds a run in the second as Danny Canela walks, steals second and later scores on another Scott throwing error. The Wolfpack adds another in the third as John Gianis triples to center and scores on Dallas Poulk's sac fly to right.
And then NCCU responds with an authentic big inning. Akeem Hood leads off with an infield hit to the right side, and then Kurt Wilson is hit by a pitch. The runners advance on a passed ball before Nate Smith hits an RBI single to right. Blake Murray's grounder to second scores Wilson, and then Smith comes home when Anthony Wilson reaches on a two-out error to shortstop Chris Diaz.
Tarran Senay (pictured) ties the score with a two-out homer in the fourth, and the Wolfpack finally gets to Citero with a big inning in the fifth. Gianis leads off with a single and is erased when Dallas Poulk reaches on a fielder's choice. But Andrew Ciencin singles to right and Pratt Maynard walks before Canela's three-run double to left makes it 7-4. Drew Poulk hits a single to left to bring home Canela.
And State takes control with a big sixth inning. Russell Wilson singles to left and Diaz is hit by a pitch. Gianis taps a sacrifice bunt to third before Dallas Poulk rockets a 2-1 pitch over the right-field fence to make it 11-4.
The Eagles add two in the sixth off Chris Overman. Justin Goodson leads off with a single to right and scores on Ross Plummer's single to left. Scott singles to right before Plummer comes home on Hood's double-play ball to second.
But the Wolfpack puts it away in the seventh with six runs, with another three-run homer from Senay the biggest blow.
State finishes with 25 hits while the Eagles put together a season-high 13.
They said it ...
NCSU coach Elliott Avent: "They (the Eagles) battled. I know they haven't had the season they wanted so far, but they battle. They play hard. The game got out of hand in the late innings, but their first pitcher was a bulldog and allowed them to get a lead. Some guys in the middle threw well for us. But Coach White has got to be proud of that ball club. Their schedule is competitive. You play in this state and every team you play is tough. ... Boy, what a beautiful stadium! I wanted us to play in this park."
NCCU coach Henry White: "We've put in a lot of work the last couple of days. I asked Citero to just keep us in the game. He's a tiger. He's been disappointed by his record, but he's done everything I've asked to keep us in games. We hit the ball good. We're getting there. We've played some tough competition. A lot of people will look at the score today and say 'Another blowout,' but it wasn't like that."
Senay: "I felt good. I got good solid contact on the ball today. I hit a couple of curveballs. ... I had seen this park from 'Bull Durham.' It's pretty awesome. I like playing here. It's pretty cool. It was good for us to get back on the winning track."
Smith: "I just tried to barrel up a fastball middle-in. We actually played the game of baseball today. If we can continue that the rest of the season I can guarantee you things are going to turn around."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is fine on the road against unranked teams, and that the Eagles still have a way to go to compete well against an ACC team for nine innings.
Stars of the game
2. Dallas Poulk.
Play of the game
Canela's double in the fifth.
NCSU leads 4-0.
NCSU: Won 1.
NCCU: Lost 16.
NCSU vs. UNC Wilmington, Wednesday, 6 p.m.
NCCU at Coppin State, Friday, 3 p.m.