May 31, 2003


CBI Live
Harmonic Hazzard homer a hit to Wolfpack
N.C. State advances to championship game

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder

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 Stadium.


“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 regional.


“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 in.”


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 smile.


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 out five.


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.