June 5, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Stetson added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings and held off a ninth-inning rally to eliminate North Carolina State from the 2011 NCAA Columbia Regional with a 5-3 win on Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
The Hatters (43-19) will advance to the regional championship game against tournament host South Carolina at 7 p.m. tonight. It will be Stetson’s first appearance in an NCAA Regional championship game since 2003, when the Hatters also took on the Gamecocks at Sarge Frye Field. NC State (35-27) sees its season come to a close, but not before they put up a strong fight on a hot, humid Sunday afternoon.
Stetson jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first four innings, but saw that shrink to 3-2 when NC State’s Brett Williams hit a 2-run home run in the fifth. The Hatters would then tack on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh and eighth to take a 5-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth.
For a few moments, it looked like NC State would tie the ballgame. A pair of Stetson errors along with a base hit and a walk allowed late-inning replacement Dylan Brown to score from third to make the score 5-3 with one out and the tying run now at first base in the person of Williams. But a strikeout by Pratt Maynard brought NC State down to their final out, and a deep fly ball from Danny Canela made it to the warning track but could not leave the deepest part of the ballpark, sending Stetson ahead to the final.
Both teams had seven hits in the game. Stetson was led by Ben Carhart who went 2-for-5, notching his team-leading 27th multi-hit game of the year. Five other Hatters had one hit apiece. NC State got a 2-for-5 performance from Williams that included three RBI, and second baseman Matt Bergquist was 2-for-3 with a run scored. First baseman Harold Riggins hit safely in his third straight game of the regional and currently holds the regional lead with six hits.
Tucker Donahue (3-3) earned the victory for Stetson with 3.2 innings of solid relief, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out three. Jake Boyd nailed down his sixth save of the year with two-thirds of an inning of perfect relief, including his seventh strikeout of this NCAA Regional. Rob Chamra (8-3) was charged with the loss for NC State as he dealt with control issues, walking five of the 16 batters he faced and giving up three earned runs in three-plus innings pitched.
The Hatters mixed a big hit and some small-ball to get on the board in the second inning. Spencer Theisen led off the inning with a double off the top of the right-field wall, then moved to third on a groundout by Trey Blackman. Then, Stetson called for the suicide squeeze as Emory put down a bunt back to the pitcher. Chamra’s throw was wide of the plate, and Theisen scored while Emory moved to second, giving the Hatters a 1-0 lead. A pickoff and a caught stealing ended the frame with no further damage for NC State.
Stetson then padded its lead in the fourth. Rickles and Jones led off with a single and a double, respectively, and a walk to Theisen loaded the bases with no outs. Another walk to Blackman brought home Rickles to give the Hatters a 2-0 lead and end Chamra’s day on the mound. A ground ball fielder’s choice at second brought home Jones for the Hatters’ third run, but the NC State reliever, Nick Rice, got a strikeout and a groundout to end the Stetson threat.
NC State would get back within a run on one swing of the bat in the fifth inning. Bergquist was hit by a pitch with one out to put a runner on for Williams. Down to his last strike, Williams launched a two-run homer into the left-field stands to bring the Wolfpack back within a run at 3-2. The Wolfpack would advance the tying run to third in the sixth, but Ciencin grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the NC State threat.
A pair of base hits by pinch-hitter Kyle Zech and Carhart led to another Stetson run in the seventh to give them a 4-2 lead. Then a two-out rally, spurred by a pair of NC State errors, allowed Trey Blackman to score the Hatters’ fifth run to give them a three-run cushion heading to the ninth.
Game six of the 2011 Columbia Regional gets underway at 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium. South Carolina will be the visitors in their home park. Live stats and live video for the entire Columbia Regional are available through GamecocksOnline.com.