N.C. State Defeats Navy in NCAA Regional Opener, 13-8
RALEIGH, N.C. - In a game that took six hours and 32 minutes to complete, the fans at Dail Park at Doak Field were treated to an exciting and action-packed NCAA Championship Regional game between the top-seeded North Carolina State Wolfpack and fourth-seeded Navy Midshipmen. After pitchers were in control of the scoreboard over the first four innings to the tune of a 1-0 score in favor of the Wolfpack (36-20), four home runs surrounding a three-plus weather delay in the fifth broke open the game and set the Midshipmen (42-15-1) into an 8-0 deficit that they would battle back from throughout the remaining four innings before coming up short in an eventual 13-8 defeat.
"N.C. State swung the bat and they didn't miss too many pitches," remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "I haven't seen a lineup like that in a long time. They've been like that all year. I was really proud of our guys for battling back and not falling victim to the circumstances. We kept coming and were really just a hit or two away from making this a 13-10 game. I thought our team fought extremely hard throughout and as a coach, that's all you can ask for. The team did everything we could've asked from them today.
"It was a tale of two games because after the fourth inning it was 1-0. "In the fifth they started sitting on some of Luke's [Gillingham] pitches and they started figure him out a bit. They have a lot of very strong, powerful hitters and got the ball up in the air."
The early action on Friday night was eventful for the sold out, standing room only crowd at Doak Field. The Midshipmen announced their presence in their first NCAA Tournament game since 2011 with a first pitch leadoff single by Robert Currie (Sr., Atlanta, Ga.) off North Carolina State's number one starting pitcher Brian Brown. After Travis Blue (Jr., Orange, Calif.) sacrificed over Currie into scoring position a hard line drive by Stephen Born (So., Strafford, Pa.) was snagged by a leaping Joe Dunand at shortstop, who doubled off Currie to end the threat.
In the bottom of the first inning, Luke Gillingham (Sr., Coronado, Calif.) showed his prowess on the national stage with strike out swinging put outs of leadoff hitter Stephen Pitarra and Preston Palmeiro.
Navy kept the pressure on Brown and the Wolfpack in the next inning as a leadoff double by Sean Trent (Sr., Sorrento, Fla.) and consecutive two-out hit by pitches of Adrian Chinnery (Jr., Wilmington, Del.) and Matthew Wilcox (Fr., Los Gatos, Calif.) loaded the bases. Brown's first strikeout of the game kept the game at 0-0 score.
Gillingham's secondary pitches were locked in early and it continued to show in the second inning when he struck out two more North Carolina State batters in the form of Brett Kinneman and Chance Shepard. In the third, he kept his pace of two strikeouts an inning with a pair of looking strike threes versus Pitarra and Dunand.
With the game still scoreless, Navy's offense kept finding small victories against North Carolina State as for the fourth straight inning a Midshipmen reached base as Trent led off with a seven-pitch walk. Consecutive fielder's choice ground outs and a two-out pick off negated that positive start to the frame.
In bottom of the fourth, North Carolina State finally got on the scoreboard as a leadoff double by Brock Deatherage and a single up the middle by Andrew Knizner put the top-seeded Wolfpack up 1-0. Gillingham held the margin at one-run as he struck out Shepard for his seventh punch out of the game.
Navy looked to rally in the top of the fifth as Wilcox and Logan Knowles (So., Port Orchard, Wash.) connected for back-to-back singles, but North Carolina State's defense turned its third double play through five innings.
The host Wolfpack broke the game in the bottom of the inning with a pair of two-run home runs. Palmeiro launched the first long ball over the right-center field wall before Knizner followed him up with shot out to center field.
As Jett Meenach (Jr., Flower Mound, Texas) was motioned in from the bullpen a strike of lightning was seen off in the distance and the game was sent into a weather delay. Starting at 8:42 p.m., the stoppage in play continued for three hours and eight minutes until 11:50.
The first batter of the resumed game, Kinneman greeted Meenach with a solo home run out to right-center field to make it 6-0. Two batters later, N.C. State increased its lead to 8-0 on its fourth home run of the inning as Josh McLain connected for a two-run long ball.
The teams went scoreless over the sixth inning as Austin Stanley put down the Mids three-up, three-down in the top of the frame before Andrew Bartek (Sr., Jefferson, Ga.) came in in relief with a runner on and quickly rolled Palmeiro over into a 4-6-3 double play. The senior right-hander ended the inning with a ground out.
With the clock turned over and into Saturday morning, Navy's bats woke up and started making damage on the scoreboard in the seventh inning. A leadoff ground-rule double by Leland Saile (Jr., Land O'Lakes, Fla.) started the rally. Wilcox singled in the first run to make it 8-1 before Connor Deneen (Sr., Tustin, Calif.) scored on a passed ball. The Mids' third run came in courtesy of a sac fly off the bat Currie. After Blue hit a single and Born earned a nine-pitch walk the bases were re-loaded for Trent. The senior right-fielder flaired a looping single down the right field line to complete the scoring at 8-5.
The three-run margin was short-lived as North Carolina State responded in the bottom of the seventh with five runs on five hits. Shepard came through with the big hit as the designated hitter connected on a Bartek pitch for a grand slam.
With the score now 13-5, Navy kept chipping away in the top of the eighth as Deneen and pinch-hitter Scott Koscho (Fr., Trafford, Pa.) opened the frame with back-to-back walks. A third straight walk to Wilcox loaded the bases. Currie started the driving in of runs as the senior lined a single through the left side of the infield to plate one run before Born doubled into center field to score two more and cap the scoring at 13-8.
Both teams went scoreless in their final ups as Navy's new reliever Andrew Sauer (Fr., Johns Creek, Ga.) forced two infield pop ups and struck out Shepard in the bottom of the eighth. In the top of the ninth, Nick Paglialonga (Jr., Lake Forest, Calif.) singled up the middle with two outs, but was stranded.
For the game, N.C. State outhit Navy, 17-12. Seven different Mids recorded hits with Currie, Trent, Wilcox and Knowles all notching two a piece.
Gillingham was saddled with the loss as he finished with a line of 4.2 innings, eight hits, two walks and five runs allowed. The senior southpaw retired seven Wolfpack batters via strikeouts to raise his 2016 total to 100 over 96.2 innings pitched.
"Overall, Luke gave us a really solid and competitive start, but give the credit to them, they did a nice job swinging the bat," said Kostacopoulos.
The Mids will play again later on Saturday with a matchup versus the Gaels of Saint Mary's at 2 p.m. at Doak Field in an elimination game. The Gaels lost on Friday versus Coastal Carolina, 5-2. In the winner's side of the regional N.C. State and Coastal Carolina will play at 7 p.m.