COLUMBIA, S.C. — N.C. State left Carolina Stadium Friday afternoon after the first game of the Columbia Regional with the feeling they let one slip away. The No. 3 seed Wolfpack wasted an early five-run lead and lost to No. 2 Stetson 8-7 when pinch-runner Sean Emory scored the winning run with one out in the ninth inning.
The Hatters (42-18) overcame a five-run deficit after three innings to advance to the winner's bracket game Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the winner of No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 4 seed Georgia Southern. The Wolfpack (34-26) fall into the loser's bracket for the second straight year and will play the loser of that game in an elimination game at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's disappointing but this is a veteran team, they need to talk to each other," N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. "They don't need to hear it from me. They know what we have to do. Our backs are against the wall and I'm sure the guys will have a little more focus and extra concentration."
The winning rally came with one out in the ninth inning off of N.C. State closer Chris Overman. Nick Carhart singled and was lifted for Emory during Nick Rickles at bat. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when Rickles ripped a single to left field that was bobbled for an error to allow Emory to score without a throw.
"You guys have heard of the good news/bad news, well that was the bad news/good news," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "We fought back though and the offense did a great job of coming back."
In the early going, it looked like it was going to be a Wolfpack runaway. They scored once in the first when Brett Williams opened the game with the first of his three hits and scored on a two-out RBI single by Danny Canela.
Williams and Canela repeated that scenario in the third when Canela's single scored Williams from second. Harold Riggins, who finished 4-for-5, followed with his 4th home run of the year, a two-run blast to deep center. Cameron Conner singled and eventually scored on wild pitch to give the Wolfpack a 5-0 lead in the third.
"I thought we had the game won," Canela said. "It just shows you have to play all nine innings."
N.C. State starter Ethan Ogburn cruised through the first three inning by allowing just one base runner when Spencer Theosen reached on a error.
But the Hatters jumped right back into it with a three-run home run by Mark Jones that just cleared the left field wall in the bottom of the fourth. That seemed to change the Hatters outlook.
"We started out kind of bad but we had to believe we were a good team and we got here because we are a good team," Jones said. "I hit a mistake and let us get back in the game to let us back in the game. It was a great team victory."
In the fifth, Mitchel Brennan hit a two-run home run to right field that tied the score and chased Ogburn after four-plus innings. The sophomore right-hander allowed five runs on six hits with a strike out and no walks.
Jeff SImpson and Robert Crews greeted reliever Josh Easley with back-to-back singles and executed a double steal to move to second and third with one out. Nick Rickles brought in Simpson with a sacrifice fly and Jones followed with a RBI single.
The Wolfpack tied the score at 7-all in the top of the seventh with a two-run home run from Canela, who finished 3-for-5 with 4 RBIs.