RALEIGH — For a baseball team in a fine pickle, N.C. State entered its Sunday night game against Vanderbilt in the midst of an offensive rampage.
That was edge enough to pump life into a resilient Wolfpack group that could have faded away Saturday night.
Thanks to a Sunday doubleheader total of 32 hits, including 10 against Vanderbilt, the Pack managed a 6-5 nightcap win over the Commodores to keep its Super Regional hopes alive.
In Monday’s 7 p.m. championship game of the Raleigh Regional at Doak Field, it’ll be Elliott Avent’s Wolfpack (42-18) against Vandy (35-27) for the third time in three days.
The Pack advanced on a game-winning single in the eighth by second baseman Matt Bergquist, the 9th guy in the batting order, that scored Brett Austin.
It was the second hit of the game for Bergquist, a junior who began the night with a modest .212 batting average.
But the way State has played of late, any hitter on the scorecard is a threat.
In four Regional games, Avent’s team has scored 48 runs on 59 hits – a remarkable run.
“Our guys are seeing the ball the best we’ve seen it all season. We’re hitting, so that’s a definite positive,” Avent said.
Those words came shortly after Avent described Saturday’s 9-8 loss to Vanderbilt as the emotional low point of his team’s season. The Pack led 8-3 late in the game, but the bullpen could not make it stand.
“We lost a game to North Carolina (May 26 in Greensboro) that was one of the best games in ACC tournament history and it cost us a chance to win a championship we wanted more than anything to win,” Avent said.
“But that game didn’t compare to the mood (Saturday in the locker room). I’ve never seen players hurt more than last night. Just crazy stuff happened.”
To the credit of Avent, his staff and players, they didn’t wallow in their misery.
With tall junior right-hander Ethan Ogburn coming within one out of a complete game, the shaky bullpen got to take off most of the afternoon, and watch the hitters bang out 22 hits against UNC Wilmington.
“I told the guys this would be the toughest game they would have to play this season,” Avent said. “They responded.”
Shortstop Chris Diaz had four hits and first baseman Andrew Ciencin drove in four to end the season for the Seahawks (39-23).
Ogburn said the entire squad was eager to get back out to the park and erase the memory of the shocking Saturday game.
Through most of the season, State had relied heavily on the hitting of slugging senior outfielder Ryan Mathews, whose hot bat has continued through the Regional.
But, in addition to Mathews, now the Pack found power and punch throughout the batting order.
Sure enough, the bullpen rallied Sunday night. Reliever Ryan Wilkins went the final two innings to get the win after starter Anthony Tzamtzis was effective for almost seven innings.
“These guys are battlers. They prove that all the time,” Avent said.