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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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