Walk-off single lifts Pack over Rice, 4-3
Posted June 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina State fell behind in the ninth inning Saturday, but scored two in the bottom half to earn a walk-off, 4-3 victory and grab a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three super regional series against Rice.
With two on in a tie game in the ninth, NC State sophomore Jake Fincher singled to left scoring, Jake Armstrong and sending the Wolfpack to their first walk-off win since April 23, when Fincher was also the hero.
Brett Williams led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, stole second and moved up to third on a throwing error. After a walk to Armstrong, nine-hole hitter Logan Ratlidge laid down a safety squeeze scoring Williams as he made a head-first diving slide under the tag of Owls catcher Hunter Kopycinski.
“When I saw that bunt, I said, ‘Oh Lord, why did I call that’” said NC State head coach Elliott Avent. “I don’t think he (Williams) can run a faster time from third to home.”
Williams said that he was just trying to get on base to start the inning, then, after being gifted third, he had an idea the bunt was coming.
“I tried to get the best jump I could,” Williams said. “I played the catcher a little bit. I saw he was inside, I slid outside and dove under the tag.”
Christian Stringer had a solo home run off of North Carolina State ace Carlos Rodon then added a go-ahead, run-scoring double in the ninth inning to give the Rice Owls a 3-2 lead at the time.
Stringer, the Owls’ senior second baseman, took advantage of a 1-2 Grant Sasser pitch with two on in the ninth inning, finding the right field corner and breaking a 2-2 tie. It was Stringer’s second RBI of the game and just his 29th RBI of the year.
"We took a one-run lead into the ninth, we were set up the way we wanted, we just didn't get it done," Stringer said, adding that he should have stopped the pick off throw from closer Zech Lemond that went into center feld allowing Williams to move up to third.
"I thought it was a tough game but you cant make mistakes at the wrong time and that's what we did today," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We had the game, then we walked the lead-off guy in a one-run game. We didn't play well in that last inning."
Stringer joked that his solo home run off of Rodon in the fifth inning as he turned on a 92 MPH fastball was “an accident.” It was just his second homer of the year.
Rodon (10-2) pitched into the ninth inning for his fourth consecutive start. The sophomore All-American threw a career-high 133 pitches while striking out nine.
“He didn’t have any long innings,” Avent said. “He pitched out of a couple jams, which can be a little stressful, but there were no real long innings. His fastball was good, his velocity was good.”
Rodon was credited with all three earned runs, breaking a span of 26.2 innings without giving up and earned run. He conceded after the game that he struggled with his command of the breaking ball.
“I felt real comfortable with my fastball, probably the most comfortable I’ve been all year,” Rodon said.
Seven of Rodon's nine strikeouts came on fastballs, including back-to-back 96 MPH pitches to get Rice three-hole hitter Michael Ratterree in the seventh..
NC State scored two runs off of Rice starter Austin Kubitza in the first inning. A Trea Turner single followed by a Jake Fincher hit-by-pitch set the table for a Tarran Senay RBI groundout. It was Senay’s team-leading eighth RBI of the NCAA tournament.
Kubitza, (8-5) was a fourth-round pick of the Detrout tigers in the MLB First-Year Player Draft Friday. During Saturday's game, NC State pitcher John Easley ((Miami Marlins) and Anthony Tzamtzis (Tampa Bay Rays) were each selected.
Easley was credited with the win Saturday as he retired the lone batter he faced in the ninth inning on in relief of Sasser.
With the win, the Wolfpack stand just one victory away from their first trip to the College World Series since 1968. The teams will meet in game two of the series Sunday at Doak Field at 4 p.m. The game will also be broadcast on ESPNU.