Harmonic Hazzard homer
a hit to Wolfpack
N.C. State advances to championship
By Sean Ryan
WILSON, N.C. – Before he led off the bottom of
the 10th inning, Justin Riley heeded a couple of pieces of advice.
One came from a North Carolina State teammate, who tipped him off
on a tendency of Virginia Commonwealth closer Brian Marshall. Another came long
before Riley stepped to the plate in a tied NCAA Regional game at Fleming
“I know all these guys are going to laugh at
me, but I’d had a rough day, and really, I was tight,” said Riley. “I had
someone tell me a long time ago, when you’re tight, sing a song. A long time
ago, I picked Dukes of Hazzard. That was one of my favorite [shows].”
Old advice and a new tip worked wonders for
Riley, who smoked an 0-1 sidearm fastball from Marshall over the wall in left to
lift the Wolfpack to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Rams to advance to Sunday’s
final round. N.C. State (44-16) will meet the winner of Saturday’s late game
between the Rams (46-12) and Western Carolina with two chances to win the
“I know every one of you are laughing,” Riley
said. “I was singing Dukes of Hazzard on deck and I was singing the entire time
I was in the box.”
As for the new piece of advice, Riley praised a teammate but
wouldn’t name who passed along the good tip.
“If I hadn’t been told what I had been told before I went to the
plate, who knows if that would have happened,” Riley said.
The win didn’t come without a little controversy, at least as far
as VCU was concerned.
“It was a well-played game,” Rams
coach Paul Keyes said. “And to the day I die, I will remember this one not for
how well we played and not how well N.C. State played but about all the BS that
went on around the field. It’s been a bad regional. There’s been a lot of things
that have been really bad.”
What Keyes was talking about was a situation involving the second
row of fencing in right-center field. VCU administrators entered the game upset
at the fact that the row of fencing had been covered with black windscreen for
Saturday’s action after the blue and green fences had been uncovered the day
before. This came after the blue and green fences replaced white fences, which
seemingly were switched because they didn’t provide batters a good background.
Keyes and other Rams administrators suggested
the change in the background had more to do with the fact that VCU was throwing
lefty Sean Marshall against the Wolfpack and less to do with the background.
“They changed the field of play…they got the
situation they wanted,” Keyes said of facing Sean Marshall and twin Brian
Marshall – both lefties – without the hindrance of a poor background. “You can
draw whatever conclusion you want. It’s totally unprofessional. I’ve never seen
a field change before – ever – in my years of coaching after it started. That’s
like taking the 18th pin in the middle of a round of a golf
tournament and moving it to an easier pin position for the back end of somebody
that’s got the lead in the tournament.”
Added VCU Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander: “They came out
before on Thursday and moved the signs. Then they played two games on Friday and
find out that we have a left-handed pitcher, and they tried to cover [the fence]
up. To me, that’s incredible that you could change the facility that you play
Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said the decision
to change the fence was made by the NCAA rules committee.
“That’s a question you need to ask the games
committee,” Avent said. “I think what you try to do is make an even playing
field for all teams involved.”
A moment later, he added: “It was supposed to be changed before
the tournament started. They attempted to change it but didn’t fix it, so they
tried to get it right, which is what you try to do. And I applaud the committee
for getting it done.”
Also deserving applause for getting it done was
the Wolfpack, which came from down 3-1 to post the win.
After State took a 1-0 lead on an error in the
first, VCU catcher Jeff Parrish hit the first of his two homers off Vern Sterry,
who entered with an 11-0 record, in the second for a 2-1 lead. His solo homer in
the fourth extended the lead to 3-1.
Parrish’s counterpart, Colt Morton, followed
suit. He hit a pair of solo homers in the sixth and eighth innings to tie the
game at 3. His shot in the eighth brought rain – literally – as the game was
delayed for 29 minutes after his shot on a 3-2 offering from Cla Meredith.
“That felt pretty good,” Morton said of his towering shot with a
Outside of Parrish, Sterry was dominant. In
all, he allowed four hits and struck out eight in eight innings. Joey Devine
(6-2) worked the final two innings for the win. For the Rams, Sean Marshall
tossed six effective innings, allowing four hits and one earned run and striking
Brian Marshall (5-5) relieved in
the ninth and dropped a curve over for strike one against Riley in the 10th.
But Riley, singing a favorite tune, got the best of him the next pitch.