N.C. State 9, Vanderbilt 7

N.C. State roars back to beat Vanderbilt 9-7, advances to Super Regional

N.C. State advances to play Florida in Super Regional

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2012 

— N.C. State still has baseball to play.

Amazingly, impressively, the Wolfpack still is alive.

On the brink of having its season end in bitter disappointment against Vanderbilt, the Wolfpack rallied for a 9-7 victory on Monday to win the NCAA Raleigh Regional and leave Doak Field in bedlam.

Trailing 7-3 entering the eighth inning, the Pack got a towering three-run homer from junior Tarran Senay. The Wolfpack then finished off the gutsy comeback with a three-run ninth.

Andrew Ciencin led off the ninth with a single and Jake Fincher, looking to bunt, was safe on a throwing error by third baseman Riley Reynolds. After Brett Austin’s hard grounder was snagged by first baseman Conrad Gregor for the first out, Logan Ratledge was walked intentionally, loading the bases.

That brought Senay back to the plate. The junior outfielder lined a single to center for two runs, pushing the Pack ahead 8-7.

When Trea Turner followed with an RBI single, the lead was 9-7.

That left it up to Ryan Wilkins, a junior right-hander who pitched the final 4 2/3 innings to protect the lead in the bottom of the ninth. Wilkins gave up a leadoff walk, then struck out Spencer Navin, Riley Reynolds and Connor Harrell to end it.

The Wolfpack (43-18) advances to its first Super Regional since 2008 and will face Florida, the No. 1 NCAA seed, in Gainesville, Fla., beginning Saturday.

“It was a great game; we kept battling and battling,” said Senay, who entered the game in the seventh to play left field. “We never gave up.

“I’m at a loss for words. That was unbelievable – the feeling to come back and get the victory and go to Gainesville. Just unbelievable.”

Mike Yastrzemski had four hits, including a solo homer, and Connor Castellano drove in three runs for the Commodores (35-28), who scored five runs in the third. But Wilkins gave up just three hits, with six strikeouts, to shut down Vandy.

“The most valuable player of that game was Ryan Wilkins,” Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. “He minimized our offense to the point it changed the momentum of the game.”

The Pack absorbed a tough 9-8 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday night, when N.C. State blew a late 8-3 lead. But N.C. State bounced back Sunday to rip UNC Wilmington, then outlasted Vandy 6-5 in a pair of win-or-else games.

“These guys have tremendous heart,” NCSU coach Elliott Avent said.

The Pack got the start it wanted. Turner lined a shot off pitcher Jared Miller’s left leg and later scored on a bloop single by Danny Canela.

Yastrzemski’s homer – Vandy’s first of the regional – tied it in the bottom of the inning, but the Pack struck for two in the third.

The Commodores’ answered with the big third. Tony Kemp led off with a double, and Yastrzemski lined a 0-2 pitch for an RBI single and later scored to tie things at 3.

Wolfpack starter Logan Jernigan was laboring. A wild pitch by Jernigan pushed across a run, and Castellano followed with a two-out, two-run double for a 6-3 lead.

Castellano had another RBI double in the fifth. But Wilkins soon entered to stymie the Commodores.

Vandy used six pitchers, getting its most effective stint from Tyler Beede.

But Beede left in the eighth after a leadoff walk and a double by Ratledge, and Senay then connected against left-hander Philip Pfeifer.

Then it was on to the fateful ninth on a memorable night.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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