RALEIGH — N.C. State may still win the NCAA Raleigh Regional, but the Wolfpack now must do it the hard way.
And after a hard-to-accept loss.
Vanderbilt rallied for a 9-8 victory over the Pack on Saturday at Doak Field, tying the score with five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and then winning it on Tony Kemp's RBI-single with two outs in the ninth.
Kemp's single to center brought in Connor Castellano, who had singled to center with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Castellano moved to third in a groundout, then raced across home plate on Kemp's blooper off reliever Chris Overman as the Commodores came racing out of the dugout for a wild celebration.
"It was a heartbreaker, one you can think about for weeks," said N.C. State senior Ryan Mathews, whose two-run homer in the eighth gave the Pack an 8-3 lead. "But we can't think about it at all. Just focus on (today). There's no time for anything else."
N.C. State (40-18) faces UNC-Wilmington today at 1 p.m. in an elimination game. The winner plays Vandy (35-26) at 6 p.m.
Wolfpack starter Carlos Rodon, the ACC's pitcher of the year, wasn't overly sharp and at times seemed miffed at calls made by home plate umpire Dave Buck. The freshman lefthander allowed five hits and three runs in 6.2 innings, striking out six and walking five while throwing 127 pitches.
"We tried to apply pressure on Rodon early but he was able to get out of it," Vandy coach Tim Corbin said.
Rodon has been better, pitching nine scoreless innings and fanning 12 last week against North Carolina in the ACC Baseball Championship. He was touched for a run in a second and gave up two in the seventh before leaving.
The Commodores then roughed up Pack relievers Ryan Wilkins, D.J. Thomas and Overman in the eighth.
Doubles by Ryan Reynolds and Conrad Gregor were the big hits, but the Commodores also got an RBI-single from Anthony Gomez and tied the score on a wild pitch by Overman and throwing error by catcher Danny Canela.
The Wolfpack, the visiting team in its second NCAA game, used a three-run sixth to jump ahead 4-1 and knock out Vandy starter Sam Selman.
Brett Austin's double to center brought in Canela for a 2-1 lead, and Jake Fincher followed with a triple. Fincher scored a balk by Selman, a junior lefty.
The Pack added a pair of runs in the seventh, and Mathews blasted his homer -- his eighth in the past 12 games -- in the eighth. In two NCAA games, Mathews has two homers and six runs batted in.
"We thought we had the game put away," NCSU coach Elliott Avent said. "It just shows you it's never put away. Some crazy things happened at the end."
The Commodores took a 1-0 lead against Rodon in the second. Jack Lupo doubled, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Andrew Harris' bunt single.
But Rodon battled his way out of a bases-loaded situation and the Pack tied the score in the fifth. Logan Ratledge led off with a single and later scored on Chris Diaz's groundout.
The Pack had little trouble disposing of Sacred Heart in its regional opener, rapping out 14 hits Friday in a 16-5 rout of the fourth seed. But Vandy is one of the hottest teams in the NCAA field despite losing to Mississippi State in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
After Saturday, they're very hot. And happy.