RALEIGH — N.C. State coach Elliott Avent had mentioned the home runs by Tarran Senay and Trea Turner, talked of the rock-solid relief pitching of Josh Easley and praised the play of Binghamton.
Avent believed he had covered all the bases of the Wolfpack's 4-1 victory Friday over the Bearcats in their NCAA Raleigh Regional opener at Doak Field, but quickly realized he hadn't.
There was that one catch in the fourth inning -- the terrific diving grab by rightfielder Jake Fincher that likely prevented Binghamton from scoring two runs and taking the lead. The one that ended the inning, the one Bearcats coach Tim Sinicki called a "game-changer."
Avent seemed almost embarrassed he had somehow overlooked the catch, which came on a wickedly twisting liner down the right-field line that Turner said had him a little scared given how shallow Fincher was playing.
"The only thing I can say is, wow," Avent said, smiling. "It was an unbelievable play by a great player. Jake Fincher is that guy that makes plays. He's a playmaker."
The top-seeded Pack (45-14), which faces William & Mary on Saturday, made all the plays needed this night -- and needed to against the fourth-seeded Bearcats. Senay hit a two-run, two-out homer in the first for a 2-0 lead, Turner's solo shot in the sixth pushed the lead to 3-1 and the Wolfpack added a run in the seventh on Logan Ratledge's two-out, RBI-single.
Starting pitcher Ethan Ogburn was pulled in the fourth inning for Andrew Woeck, who benefited from Fincher's grab that robbed Binghamton catcher Nick Pancerella. Easley (6-2) pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, retiring Shaun McGraw on a fly to left, and allowed just one hit -- a single in the seventh -- in 4 1-3 innings.
"Senay hit that home run in the first and got us off to a good start," Avent said. "Obviously Trea, the big home run kept it (from being) a one-run game and was equally huge. But to me, Easley coming in and getting that out ... I thought that was big and then he pitched well the rest of the game."
Another big play was an attempted steal of home by Binghamton's Bill Bereszniewicz in the seventh. It wasn't a called steal, said Sinicki, who dryly noted Bereszniewicz went "on his own" and easily was out to end the inning.
Binghamton starter Jack Rogalla, a junior righty, kept the Pack off-balance much of the game before leaving in the seventh. Senay was able to turn on a fastball, Rogalla said, but he said he thought he had jammed Turner in the sixth.
For Senay, the homer offered a bit of deja vu. In the last regional game at Doak, last year against Vanderbilt, he had a late three-run homer that keyed the Pack's winning rally and won the regional.
"For us to come out and challenge them for every bit of nine innings, against a team that deservedly and arguably could have a national seed right now, I thought our guys looked comfortable and not in awe of the situation or the environment," Sinicki said.
Avent had the same opinion, which he said was one reason he had a "quick hook" with Ogburn and Woeck. It was a tight game, keeping the partisan crowd of 2,784 on edge.
"Binghamton played their hearts out," Senay said.
The Pack was playing its first game since losing the 18-inning thriller against North Carolina 2-1 last week in the ACC Championship. There also was the matter of the perceived snub of not receiving one of the eight national seeds for the NCAA tournament.
Next up for N.C. State is a 7 p.m. winner's bracket game against the Tribe, which topped Mississippi 4-2 in the first game Friday. William & Mary was opportunistic, scoring all four runs in the fifth inning without a hit. Southpaw Carlos Rodon will start for the Pack, Avent said.
Binghamton will play Ole Miss in an elimination game at 2 p.m.
"It's good to get off to a good start in this regional," Avent said. "Winning the first game is always tough."