RALEIGH, N.C—Third-seed UNC Wilmington and host North Carolina State could have traveled down more divergent paths to enter Sunday’s elimination game at the Raleigh regionals. Saturday afternoon UNC Wilmington eliminated fourth-seeded Sacred Heart with a resounding 13-4 victory in which the Seahawks hit five home runs. After a strong start by NC State lefthander Carlos Rodon, the Wolfpack led second-seed Vanderbilt with an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning. The Wolfpack allowed six runs in the last two innings to lose 8-9 on Vanderbilt outfielder Tony Kemp’s walk-off single that left the home crowd speechless.
“I talked to them in the locker room and I told them the toughest game we played all year was this one,” NC State Head Coach Elliott Avent. “They knew they outplayed the other team but crazy stuff happened.”
In Saturday’s elimination game, there was no question which team outplayed its opponent as NC State beat UNC Wilmington 17-5. The Wolfpack's 17 runs scored was a season high and the regional host has scored 41 runs over the last three days.
“No doubt about it we ran into a buzz saw today and they are swinging the bats as well as anybody we have played all year,” Seahawks head coach Mark Scalf said. “We couldn’t miss barrels today and we hit a lot of them.”
NC State struck out only twice on the day in 48 plate appearances and registered 22 hits, including 11 extra-base hits. Ten members of the Wolfpack collected hits and seven had multi-hit games.
UNC Wilmington lefthander Mat Batts held the Wolfpack to one run in the first three innings, but the they exploded for a seven-run fourth inning and the game was never in question again. Batts had been the Seahawks’ best starter this season, but got only 10 outs, gave up eight runs, and failed to strike out a Wolfpack hitter with his 84-86 mph fastball with heavy-arm side run and vast assortment of breaking pitches.
Wolfpack second baseman Matt Bergquist entered regionals hitting .197/.306/.254 but NC State’s middle infield combination of juniors led the charge offensively and defensively. Bergquist and shortstop Chris Diaz combined to go 7-for-10, scored six runs, and drove in nine runs. Berguquist also hit his first home run of the season on a three-run shot to left. The duo was also responsible for 11 outs defensively.
After the NC State bullpen gave up six runs in two innings against Vanderbilt, NC State junior righthander Ethan Ogburn threw 8 2/3 innings, the longest start of his career. After two consecutive outs in the ninth inning Ogburn gave up a single to UNC Wilmington’s Jake Koening and Avent turned to the bullpen as the 6-foot-4 Ogburn strode off the field to a standing ovation by the home crowd.
“The ovation that he got showed how the crowd felt about his performance today,” Avent said. “He was up to the challenge.”
Ogburn was steady throughout the game and didn’t give up his second run of the game until the sixth inning, when NC State had already scored nine runs. Ogburn struck out seven and walked only one. He attacks hitters from a high arm slot and throws his fastball in the high 80s but did hit 91. The North Carolina native showed good command and relied on his assortment of offspeed pitches to keep the Seahawk’s off balance. His low-80s changeup and slider were strong pitches on Sunday. Ogburn was aided by four double plays by the Wolfpack defense, including three initiated by Diaz and Bergquist.
Ogburn's outing allowed the bullpen to rest for the Wolfpack’s rematch against Vanderbilt in the Sunday evening game. Coach Avent said sophomore Anthony Tzamtzis will get the start with an opportunity to push the Commodores into a one-game playoff on Monday.
Eight senior Seahawks played in their final collegiate games Sunday and those seniors led the offensive charge for UNC Wilmington. Center fielder Andrew Cain hit his 12th home run of the season—his second in as many days—and collected a single. The 6-foot-6 Cain has plus speed and will hear his named called within the next few days as a draft selection. Senior third baseman Matt Campbell also had two hits including a home run.
“This is a veteran group of players and they have done a great job getting us headed back in the right direction,” Coach Scalf said.