RALEIGH -- For N.C. State, it was worth the wait.
A lot of runs were scored, a record or two was set, Friday became Saturday and in the end the Wolfpack won its first game in the NCAA Raleigh Regional.
In a game interrupted for more than three hours by threatening weather, the Pack homered four times in the fifth inning — two before the weather delay, two after it — and scored seven runs in beating Navy 13-8 at Doak Field.
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Chance Shepard had a grand slam in the seventh for the Wolfpack (36-20), the No. 1 seed in the regional, which will face second-seeded Coastal Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Chanticleers topped third-seeded Saint Mary’s 5-2 in the first game Friday.
“You don’t expect a 13-8 game and you don’t expect to get out of here at 2 o’clock in the morning,” NCSU coach Elliott Avent said. “But that’s what it takes this time of the year. What you have to do this time of year is figure out a way to persevere and keep your focus.”
Preston Palmeiro and Andrew Knizner each hit two-run homers in the bottom of the fifth to push the Pack ahead 5-0 and chase Navy starter Luke Gillingham. Moments after Knizner’s homer, with two outs, the game was delayed because of lightning in the area.
It was first believed the game would be restarted Saturday morning, but a decision was made to wait out the weather and try and get the game in. After more than three hours, the tarp was removed and the game resumed.
Brett Kinneman, the first batter up after the restart, homered to right off right-hander Jett Meenach. After a walk to Shepard, Josh McLain smacked a home run to left for an 8-0 lead.
“When we came back from that delay I thought we had our best at-bats of the night,” Avent said. “And defensively I thought we were outstanding.”
NCSU officials said the four homers in an inning set a school record for a postseason game. The three-hour-plus gap between back-to-back homers, Knizner’s and Kinneman’s, likely was another.
The Midshipmen scored five times in the top of seventh to make things interesting. Sean Trent had a two-run single to pull Navy within 8-5.
“But our guys kept responding,” Avent said.
Shepard delivered the grand slam — his 14th homer of the season — in the bottom of the seventh on a blast to left field as the Pack scored five runs.
Knizner, Brock Deatherage and Evan Mendoza each had three hits for the Pack, which had 17. All nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit and eight scored runs.
The Midshipmen (42-15-1) won the Patriot League championship. In Gillingham, they had a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior who had an 8-3 record and 1.96 earned run average.
Gillingham, called a “big-game pitcher” by Navy coach Paul Kostacopolous, wasn’t overpowering. But he kept the Pack off-balance early by hitting his spots and changing up speeds, striking out six in the first three innings.
“He was mixing speeds really good,” Knizner said. “We didn’t have bad at-bats early but we weren’t getting good end results. But we kept stringing at-bats together and made him work. We didn’t give him any easy at-bats and that kind of wore on him a little bit and we finally broke through.”
In the fourth, Deatherage led off with a double and scored on Knizner’s single up the middle.
In the fifth, the Pack’s Stephen Pitarra led off with a fly to left that was misplayed and fell for a double. After a groundout, Palmeiro hammered a 1-1 pitch to deep right center for his ninth home run of the season.
Gillingham dropped his head at the crack of the bat, walking off the mound and never looking out to the outfield.
Gillingham walked Joe Dunand after Palmeiro’s shot, and Knizner then stepped into a pitch, rocketing a shot that Navy center fielder Robert Currie futilely tried to leap and catch at the fence. It was Knizner’s fourth home run of the season and the lead was 5-0.
“I just made one or two mistakes and they have a really potent offense,” Gillingham said. “I knew I had to be sharp and for those one or two circumstances I wasn’t and they made me pay.”
Gillingham had allowed just four homers in his Navy career and one this season before Friday. The numbers: 51 games, 1,204 batters faced, four homers allowed.
The homers by Palmeiro and Knizner ended Gillingham’s night, and the fans soon were exiting Doak Field because of the lightning delay.
Sophomore left-hander Brian Brown started for the Pack and battled through some control problems at times, hitting a pair of batters. Brown had struggled in his past four starts, giving up 18 earned runs in 20 1-3 innings.
Navy put its leadoff batter on base in the first, second and fourth innings but couldn’t score. The Pack twice turned double plays and a pickoff by Brown ended the Navy fourth.
The last time the Pack played an NCAA game at Doak Field, in 2013, it emerged with a 17-inning victory over Rice to win a Super Regional and advance to the College World Series. After missing NCAA play in 2014, N.C. State suffered a crushing loss last year to Texas Christian, which rallied late to erase a big Wolfpack lead, win the Fort Worth Regional and reach the Super Regional round.
The Pack now has another NCAA win. But it took a while to get it.