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June 3, 2013

Pack clinches Super Regional bid

Runs have not come particularly easy for NC State in the Raleigh Regional of the NCAA Baseball Championships. The Wolfpack have been the beneficiaries of some stellar pitching outings, so they won despite scoring just five runs in the first two games, but the Red and White wasted no time pushing across three runs on four hits in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday night en route to a 9-2 victory over William & Mary.

Leadoff hitter and All-American shortstop Trea Turner reached base on a single in the first, and right fielder Jake Fincher followed with another hit. After Brett Austin grounded into a fielder's choice, first baseman Tarran Senay jacked a 2-0 pitch way over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.

"Once Tarran hit that ball, I would say I felt a little relief come off of our shoulders," Turner admitted. "I think that is a huge deal - scoring first and putting pressure on the other team."

Senay finished the game 2-of-5 with five RBI and a run scored to finish the Regional 5-of-11 with two round-trippers and seven RBI en route to Most Outstanding Player honors. Senay also tallied five RBI and a homer in last year's NCAA Raleigh Regional title game, despite not starting the game. Overall, in two Raleigh Regional appearances, Senay has played in six games and is 7-of-16 with three home runs, 13 RBI and six runs scored.

"I don't know if [the first-inning homer] set the tone, but it definitely got us going a little bit," Senay said. "I think it got [starter] Brad [Stone] going and he was more comfortable on the mound. He looked relaxed."

Stone tossed 5.1 shutout innings, allowed just four hits and struck out three, before he gave way to Ryan Wilkins in the sixth.

"We just felt very comfortable in giving him the baseball tonight," Avent said. "Boy was he ecstatic. He wanted the ball."

Wilkins was touched up for a pair of runs - one earned - before senior reliever Grant Sasser got out of a jam in the eighth with a pair of strikeouts and shut the Tribe down in the ninth. Sasser was credited with the save, his eighth of the year.

NC State added to its lead with three runs in the bottom half of both the sixth and eighth innings. In the sixth, three straight singles gave the Pack an additional run. Then, with runners on second and third, Fincher recorded an RBI single and the other Pack tally scored on a defensive obstruction call against the Tribe's pitcher.

In the eighth, second baseman Logan Ratledge hit a double with two outs and was joined on base by Turner, after William & Mary gave the shortstop a free pass. Ratledge and Turner both moved up on stolen bases before Fincher reached on a dropped strikeout. Ratledge scored on that play, and Senay brought in two more with a two-out single.

William & Mary pushed across their first run in the top of the seventh, thanks to two doubles, and added another tally the next frame after three State errors allowed centerfielder Ryan Brown to score.

NC State will be playing in its fourth NCAA Super Regional since the format was instituted in 1999, but the venue is not known yet. If Oregon is able to top Rice on Monday, like they did tonight, the Ducks will host a Super Regional that also features NC State. However, if Rice is able to pull the upset and top the home team on Monday, the victors will travel to play in a best-of-three series in Raleigh.

"I'm so proud of our baseball team," Avent said. "We always talk about where you've been, understanding where you are now and where you want to go. I can't say enough about our senior leadership.

"Getting to a second-straight Super Regional and the third in the last five or six years for this program speaks volumes about where we are. It's so hard to play well in a short time frame."

Around the bases

- Several NC State players were honored on the 2013 All-Raleigh Regional squad. In addition to Senay being named Most Outstanding Player and honoree at first base, the other selections include: pitcher Carlos Rodon, second baseman Logan Ratledge, shortstop Trea Turner, third baseman Grant Clyde and outfielder Jake Fincher.

- The Pack has advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Baseball Champion every time it has hosted the regional championship. Sunday's victory improve the Red and White to 10-1 in its three opportunities as a Regional host (2008, '12, '13). They also hosted an NCAA Regional in 2003 at Fleming Stadium in Wilson, N.C.

- In three games this weekend, the Pack allowed just three runs, the fewest in the school's 26 regional berths. NCSU outscored its opponents 14-3 this weekend.

- Sunday marked the 47th win of the campaign, which ranks as the fourth-most in school history and extends the program's best season under Avent, the 17th-year mentor. The school record is 49 wins, which came in 1993, followed by 48 victories in both 1990 and '91.

- By way of a single in the first inning, Fincher has safely reached base in 59 of the team's 61 games this season. He ended the game with a trio of hits, giving him a team-best 25 multi-hit contests this year.

- The Wolfpack pitching staff did not allow a walk for the second-straight game. Carlos Rodon did not issue a free pass in his complete game shutout on Saturday, and the three NCSU pitchers tonight did not do so in nine innings of work on Sunday. For the weekend, Pack pitchers struck out 25 and issued just two base on balls.

N.C. State NEWS


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