Wolfpack headed to College World Series after winning 17-inning classic

jwgiglio@newsobserver.comJune 9, 2013 

— N.C. State’s players lingered on the field to celebrate with each other and Wolfpack fans just a little longer as Sunday night melted into Monday morning.

It took N.C. State 45 years to get back to the College World Series, why not make the most of the moment?

After 17 innings, and more than seven and a half hours, N.C. State beat Rice 5-4 on Sunday for this Wolfpack team’s own piece of history.

Senior centerfielder Brett Williams provided the game-winning hit and senior pitcher Ethan Ogburn worked five flawless innings in relief to give N.C. State (49-14) another improbable NCAA tournament win.

“This is awesome,” Williams said. “If I had one word for it, it’s awesome.”

The Wolfpack went through nine pitchers, and a 77-minute rain delay, but it outlasted the Owls in a classic college baseball game.

In the ACC tournament, N.C. State had its heart broken in an 18-inning loss to North Carolina on May 25. The baseball gods repaid them in the Super Regional round.

“If you work hard and persevere and just go about your business, this game will occasionally give you something back,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “When it does, it’s like the sweetest thing there is. It gave us something back tonight and we appreciate it.”

Just like it did in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Owls (44-20), N.C. State needed another ninth-inning rally. The Wolfpack scored two runs in the ninth inning in Saturday’s 4-3, walk-off win. On Sunday, it needed three runs in the ninth, and then took eight more innings but the wait was worth it.

In the top of the 17th, Williams doubled to right-center and senior first baseman Tarran Senay, who led off the inning with a single, scored to break what seemed like an unbreakable 4-4 tie after 11:30 p.m.

When there was still sun shining on Doak Field, Rice second baseman Christian Stringer hit two home runs and designated hitter Michael Aquino added another to stake the Owls to a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning.

The Wolfpack rallied in the ninth with right fielder Jake Fincher coming through in the clutch again. Fincher’s double to right scored second baseman Logan Ratledge and shortstop Trea Turner to cut Rice’s lead to 4-3. Senay delivered a two-out, game-tying double into right field.

Stringer, who also homered Saturday, was an unexpected source of power for the Owls. He only hit one home run in the 62 games before the Super Regional but has three in two games.

Avent gave sophomore Logan Jernigan the start and he gave up one run in five innings. Ogburn, after four outstanding innings from the combination of Grant Sasser and Chris Overman, struck out six in five innings and gave up three hits.

Ogburn got Stringer to pop out to left field to end the marathon. A traditional “dog pile,” celebration ensued in the infield. After winning the regional over William & Mary a week ago, N.C. State skipped out on the dog pile. Not on Sunday.

“The regional win didn’t feel like a time for us to dog pile,” Ogburn said. “We didn’t feel like we accomplished anything. We wanted to accomplish something, we wanted to turn this program back to Omaha.”

N.C. State’s season started with the promise of a long-awaited trip to Omaha, with the core of last year’s Super Regional group intact. After a 16-9 record on April 24, the CWS seemed far away for the Wolfpack.

But Avent kept the team together and the seniors, as he said kept “grinding,” and their work culminated with Sunday’s wild win.

“I keep talking about where these guys have been and where we were at one point and where we want to go,” Avent said.

The next stop is Omaha and no one in red could have enjoyed it any more on Sunday.

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