COLUMBIA, S.C. — COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning with the season on the brink, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent went to the mound with every intention of pulling ace Cory Mazzoni, who had thrown well over 100 pitches.
Georgia Southern's Victor Roache, the nation's leading home run hitter with 30, was coming to the plate with a chance to tie the score.
But Mazzoni, a junior right-hander, convinced Avent he had one more batter in him on the hot, muggy day, and he wanted the opportunity.
Mazzoni got Roache to loft a lazy fly ball to center, and the Wolfpack added a couple of insurance runs to stave off elimination with a 5-2 victory in an elimination game today in the Columbia Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
"I went out there to get him," Avent said. "He said, 'Coach, I got it.'"
"Roache may be as good as player as we've seen this year. Cory was pitching on nothing but guts. The plan was to get the first two, hopefully, then to bring in a sinker-ball guy to face Roache. He wanted it. For all he's given N.C. State, if he wanted that opportunity, by God he was going to get it."
Mazzoni was masterful as he handcuffed the Eagles on four hits over eight innings and allowed the Wolfpack to extend their season. N.C. State (35-26) will face the loser of tonight's winner's bracket match-up between No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 2 seed Stetson in another elimination game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
"A lot of people said this was the toughest regional, but I can tell you (Georgia Southern) is one of the toughest teams we've played all year," Avent said. "I'm proud of our players to grind it out and tough it out; I'm so proud of our players."
Georgia Southern (36-26) scored a run in the first off of Mazzoni on a hit batter, a stolen base and an RBI double from Roache. But the right-hander was nearly dominant from there on. He finished with 12 strikeouts and one walks. In his last 23 innings, Mazzoni has allowed two runs on 11 hits with 32 strikeouts and three walks.
"We knew we were going to have our hands full with him," GSU coach Rodney Hennon said of Mazzoni. "When you're facing a guy like that, there's not a lot of room for error when he's got his good stuff. I just tip my hat to N.C. State."
Roache, who had the most success by going 2-for-4, said Mazzoni was keeping the Eagles off balance.
"He was going at us and had his fastball and slider working," the sophomore said. "He had very good stuff."
Mazzoni was consistently in the 91-93 mph range on his fastball and had a solid breaking ball working.
"I was getting the curve ball over on the first pitch a lot ... and the slider was a good strikeout pitch for me," Mazzoni said.
The Wolfpack tied the score on a solo home run by Danny Canela in the fourth inning and took the lead in the sixth. Brett Williams walked and stole second before scoring on Pratt Maynard's RBI single.
Harold Riggins singled to put runners on first and second for Tarran Senay, who singled to right field. Maynard was held up on the play, but Riggins was caught in a rundown between second and third that allowed Maynard to score.
Cameron Conner made a highlight reel catch to lead off the seventh inning that may have prevented a run. Tom Richardson drilled a ball to deep right that Conner caught as he crashed into the fence.
N.C. State added two insurance runs in the ninth on a RBI double by Andrew Ciencin and a RBI single by Conner.