June 1, 2003


CBI Live
Morton's blast carries Wolfpack to Super Regionals
N.C. State outlasts WCU in 14 innings

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

WILSON, N.C. - This one was special.


#9; The players and coaches said afterward that the baseball game they had just completed seemed like any other game while they were playing, but the onlookers at Fleming Stadium Sunday knew otherwise. What they were watching was breathtaking at times, heartbreaking at others. And when it was finished four hours and three minutes and 14 innings after it started, many left the North Carolina State affair with Western Carolina with indelible impressions.


#9; The most lasting likely will be Colt Morton's towering opposite-field homer to lead off the top of the 14th, which spurred the Wolfpack to a 6-4 win over the Catamounts and pushed N.C. State into a Super Regional date with Miami (Fla.).


#9; "A heartbreaker," said Catamounts coach Todd Raleigh, while taking his cap off and rubbing his hands through his hair. "Any time you play a game like that, let alone when what's on the line…No regrets. The kids played as hard as they could."


#9; Tied at 4 since the sixth inning, Morton, the Wolpack's 6-6, 227-pound junior catcher who previously had hit into two double plays and struck out twice, led off the 14th by going with a 2-2 outside fastball from Derrick Hawk (10-2) and crushed it well over the wall in right to send the majority of the 2,529 in attendance into a frenzy.


#9; "Absolutely," Morton said when asked if he knew it was gone. "I was just like, wow, thank you God. I got another blessing today."


#9; Added Wolfpack shortstop Chad Orvella: "I think everybody knew it was gone. The fans knew it was gone. The dugout sure knew it was gone. The wind was blowing that way today. He got a ball up and he hit it well. He's been doing it all year and as a team, we've been doing it all year. It's a great feeling."


#9; The Wolfpack (45-16) added another run when Hawk, in his ninth inning of relief, walked Joe Gaetti. Gaetti moved to second on a passed ball, to third on a fly ball and eventually scored on a wild pitch for a 6-4 edge.


#9; Joey Devine came on to preserve the first college win for Collin Brown (1-1) with his 14th save, putting an end to an incredible game and the season for the Catamounts (43-21). The game marked the longest game in WCU history.


#9; "I told them no tears," Raleigh said. "What I don't want…is these guys to say: if I would have gotten that one hit. I don't want that to haunt them.


#9; "I don't want that to overlook this. These kids played as hard as they could. I said: You walk out of here with your chin up. No regrets. We played. I don't think they want to play us again, but we would have played them."


#9; Early on, it looked like it might be a typical final day of Regional action, when pitching was short and hitting would take over. State starter Nate Cretarolo, who last time out shut Georgia Tech out, was effectively wild, walking three and plunking two in the first three innings.


#9; His counterpart, Seth Foster, was roughed up a bit, even getting smoked with an Orvella liner off his hand. Although he recovered to make the first spectacular play off the day to get Orvella at first, he was replaced in the fourth when the Wolfpack scored three times to take a 4-1 lead.


#9; Orvella singled and Marc Maynor doubled to put men on second and third with none out. Adam Hargrave ripped a grounder to third, where Chris Davis dived to his left, speared the ball and threw to first to prevent two runs. Lefty Joe Camac entered to face lefty Matt Camp (3 for 6, three RBI), who looped a single into center to score two. Camp stole third and scored on Davis' error on a ball right at the bag. Seth Foster's twin Ryan, who replaced Camac before the error, got Morton to bounce to Davis, who made a nice play in tagging third and throwing to first for a double play to end the inning.


#9; The Catamounts got a run back on Matt Nelson's second RBI grounder to second in the bottom of the fourth then tied it in the sixth when he drove in Rod Goldston, who reached on an error and Denver Edick, who singled, after a Cretarolo balk


#9; That was the last scoring for quite a while.


#9; "I kept thinking that we were going to bust loose with the bats," N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. "I think you got to give Hawk a lot of credit. That guy battled and battled, and what an effort he gave for Western Carolina…you can't say enough about him."


#9; Hawk, a former starter whose previous long this season was 4.1 innings, allowed five hits, walked four and struck out five in his eight innings spanning 117 pitches.


#9; "Derrick's really been doing that all year," Raleigh said. "…We never extended him the way we extended him today."


#9; The Catamounts' defense played a big part in that decision.


#9; In the sixth, Davis again made a splendid play at third, firing to Todd Roper who made a lighting-quick turn at second for a double play on Justin Riley in the sixth. In the seventh, Hawk walked Morton and Gaetti to open the frame. David Hicks tried to sacrifice, bunting a soft liner down the third-base line. Davis raced in and made a diving catch on the line, then waited as Roper, who had started toward first to cover the bag, got back in second to double-up Morton.


#9; "Basically, these guys have been playing great defense going from the conference tournament into regionals," Hawk said. "They've been making diving plays all over the place. It's been a lot easier to pitch knowing that anywhere they hit it, these guys are going to be there to make the play.


#9; But the Wolfpack made some plays, too.


#9; With two outs - the second courtesy of a nice running catch in center by Camp - in the seventh and runners on first and third, Cretarolo picked off Wayne Kilmer, so Roper broke from third. Orvella took a strike from Hicks at first and fired a strike of his own to Morton, whose sweep tag in time from umpire David Rogers' viewpoint.


#9; "The play at the plate, it's a bang-bang play, the toughest play in baseball," Raleigh said. "I think he slipped in there, but the umpire didn't."


#9; Offered Morton: "Bang-bang play. I mean the umpire was there. He was in a good position to make the call. I thought he made a good call. It's one of those plays that could go either way."

#9; From there, the question became who would blink first - Hawk or the Wolfpack's Brandon Shipwash and Collin Brown, two pitchers who came in with 37.2 innings and ERAs over 6 between them.


#9; Shipwash was brilliant, going four innings with two hits and five strikeouts. He also made a diving catch on Nelson's bunt attempt along the first-base line in the 11th that preceded Orvella's diving stab up the middle.


#9; "Shipwash particularly pitched well," Raleigh said. "We looked at his numbers in the scouting report. And [they] didn't do him justice…I thought he was the most effective pitcher today."

#9; Brown (1-1) didn't allow a hit in his two innings, but did make everyone hold their breath when Alan Beck launched a long fly to left that Lee Mezistrano broke to the fence and then caught the ball at his knees on the warning track.


#9; "I was pulling it back," Orvella said. "I think I jumped up in the air right away. I was hoping that thing wasn't going. Off the bat, I thought it had a chance."


#9; The Pack had a chance in the 11th when it loaded the bases with one out, but Hawk got Morton to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play that Kilmer and Roper turned to perfection. Rod Goldston, who threw out Hicks on a single in the fifth, made several clutch catches, none bigger than the running backhanded catch on the track in right while looking into the sun on Hargrave's shot with two men on in the 12th.


#9; But Western Carolina had no answer for Morton, whose 14th inning bomb was his 17th on the year.


#9; "We have a goal in mind, not only to be in Omaha, but to be a contender there," Morton said.


#9; After a special day, the Pack has that chance.