June 8, 2013


Fincher Delivers Game-Winner for NC State

By Phil Stanton

CBI Co-Founder @roadtoomaha


RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State thought it would take the lead in the eighth.


Instead, it waited until the ninth.


Brett Williams scored the tying run on a safety squeeze, and Jake Fincher drove in the winning run with a single to left as the Wolfpack edged Rice 4-3 Saturday in Game 1 of the Raleigh Super Regional in front of a sellout crowd of 3,051 at Doak Field at Dail Park.


NC State (48-14) put two in scoring position with one away in the eighth before a lineout to first and a groundout to second kept the score tied at 2.


The Owls (44-19) broke the deadlock in the top of the ninth. Skyler Ewing had a one-out single and was replaced by pinch-runner John Williamson, who moved to second on an infield hit by Hunter Kopycinski.


That ended the day for NCSU starter Carlos Rodon. Grant Sasser struck out Ford Stainback before allowing a double to Christian Stringer, plating Ewing with the go-ahead run.


Williams led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Rice closer Zech Lemond. On a missed hit-and-run attempt, Williams swiped second. With one away, an errant pickoff throw to second allowed Williams to take third. Jake Armstrong was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with one away.


“I was going to do anything I could to get on base,” Williams said. “We needed base runners, especially early. We had a hit-and-run on and I got a good jump. I was able to get the jump I needed and swiped second. And they helped me out with the bad pickoff attempt to get me to third.”


Logan Ratledge tried a safety squeeze on the first pitch, but fouled it away. He was successful on the second pitch, bunting hard to Blake Fox at first. Williams flew down the third base line, diving to avoid the tag and tie the game at 3.


“Brett Williams is probably the best outfielder I’ve ever had in my life,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said. “I don’t know if he’s ever had a faster time third to home.”


“I had a feeling we were going to do the push bunt,” Williams said. “After the first attempt failed, I knew they’d be ready for it. I was trying to get the best jump I possibly could. I kind of played the catcher. He was out in front of the plate a little bit so I slid to the back side and stuck my hand in.”


After a groundout, Fincher drove a base hit into left to bring in Armstrong with the game-winner.


“Obviously it was a good game and I thought our guys competed very well,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “We just had a few uncharacteristic mistakes late in the game when we were in position to win the game. That’s the way the game is. You can’t make mistakes at the wrong time and we happened to do it.”


Josh Easley (7-2) got the final out in the top of the ninth to pick up the win. Rodon (3 R, 2 BB) struck out nine in 8.1 innings and all were swinging. The 11 hits he surrendered were a season high.


“I didn’t have everything in the arsenal today,” Rodon said. “I struggled with the slider early. In the later innings I got back to where the command was good. The defense picked me up a lot throughout the whole game, 11 hits and spectacular defense.”


Lemond (7-2, 1.2 IP, H, 2 R, BB, K) suffered the loss in relief of Austin Kubitza (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 8 K).


The Wolfpack started the scoring in the bottom of the first. Trea Turner had a leadoff single over left fielder Keenan Cook’s head to start the inning. Fincher was hit by a pitch and both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Austin. Tarran Senay grounded out to second to plate Turner with the game’s first run. Fincher scored on a wild pitch to give NC State a 2-0 advantage, the only runs it would get against Kubitza.


The Owls had chances in each of the first two frames, but came away empty. Stainback had a leadoff single to start the game, but was picked off first. Michael Ratterree had a two-out single, and Shane Hoelscher walked, but both were stranded on a foul popout to end the inning. Ewing coaxed a two-out walk in the second and Kopycinski singled off Rodon’s glove. Third baseman Grant Clyde faked a throw to first and threw behind Ewing at second to catch him off the base and end the threat.


Rice finally got on the board in the top of the fourth. Hoelscher was plunked to start the frame. Two batters later, Hoelscher moved to second on a base hit up the middle by Leon Byrd. With two away, Ewing delivered a base hit to score Hoelscher, narrowing the margin to 2-1. It was the first earned run surrendered by Rodon since May 17 vs. Duke, spanning 26.2 innings.


Stringer (2 for 5, 2 RBI) homered in the fifth as Rice knotted the score at 2-2.



This was the first-ever meeting between Rice and NC State.


The Wolfpack reached 48 victories, the second-highest total in program history. NC State set the school record with 49 wins in 1993.


Rodon finished with nine strikeouts, marking the 16th time in 17 starts in which he had at least eight punchouts. He was looking for his fourth straight double-figure strikeout performance.