RALEIGH, NC – The bad weather repeated itself through the 2016 Raleigh Regional. Unfortunately for NC State, the season ended on a familiar note as well.
The Wolfpack dropped a heartbreaking, 7-5, decision to Coastal Carolina Tuesday after allowing four runs in the top of the ninth inning. The Chanticleers took the lead after play resumed following a suspension of the contest early Tuesday morning.
It is the second straight season that NC State has lost in a regional championship game. The Wolfpack led late but lost to TCU in the Fort Worth Regional in 2015.
The beginning of the game was delayed for over 90 minutes as rain began to fall shortly before the 6 p.m. scheduled start time. In the top of the fifth inning play was halted as rain once again fell in Raleigh. That in-game delay lasted 40 minutes.
Not to be outdone. A third rain delay occurred at 12:05 with Coastal at bat. The Chanticleers had the bases loaded with one out and were trailing, 5-3, in the winner-take-all contest.
NC State head coach Elliott Avent was serving the first of a two-game suspension following his ejection from the Wolfpack’s, 8-1, victory over the Chanticleers in the regional’s sixth game. He was unavailable to speak to the media after the loss per NCAA rules.
“Congratulations to Coach [Gary] Gilmore and Coastal Carolina,” NC State associate head coach Chris Hart said. “Obviously losing the last game of the season is always tough. This one is no different.”
The Wolfpack was one strike away from clinching its third Super Regional berth in five seasons. Evan Brabrand (1-1) had a 0-2 count on Tyler Chadwick before plunking the pinch-hitter on the knee to load the bases. A fielder’s choice previously had brought Coastal within one run of the Wolfpack.
Seth Lancaster then singled to right field to score two runs and Coastal the lead, Billy Cooke smacked a base hit to right four pitches later bring home the seventh run of the game.
Andrew Beckwith pitched two innings in relief prior to the game being suspended and improved to 12-1 on the campaign. Michael Morrison entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and retired the side in order for his 10th save of the season.
The Chanticleers jumped on NC State starter Brian Brown early. The left-hander, who was pitching on two days rest, trailed, 2-0, after two batters faced following a homer off the bat of Michael Paez.
Coastal Carolina loaded the bases with no one out in the next inning but Brown was able to escape without allowing another run following a foul out, pop out and a fielder’s choice.
NC State answered in the bottom of the second when Andrew Knizner singled home Joe Dunand to cut the Wolfpack’s deficit to one.
Coastal, however, tacked on a run in its half of the fourth. Once again, NC State avoided more damage when Billy Cooke was caught attempting to take home on a double steal.
The Wolfpack did damage with two outs in its half of the fourth. Back-to-back doubles from Chance Shepard and Josh McLain closed NC State’s deficit to one again.
In the bottom of the sixth, NC State took the lead for the first time. Chance Shepard crossed home plate to tie the game on a fielder’s choice. Preston Palmeiro followed with RBI single through the left side to drive in Josh McLain and give the Wolfpack a, 4-3, advantage.
Things got dicey for the Wolfpack in top of the seventh when the Chanticleers had a runner at second base with one out. Cody Beckman came in relief and struck out G.K. Young. With two outs, he fanned Kevin Woodall Jr. but the third strike rolled free. Knizner struggled to find the grasp, collecting the ball and firing to first just in time to get Woodall as Zach Remillard was crossing home plate with would have been the tying run.
The Wolfpack seemingly created some breathing room in the bottom of the eighth inning. Evan Mendoza singled home McLain, who reached to lead of the frame after being hit by a pitch.
Then the rains came and the sky fell.
“They have done everything we possibly could have asked and more,” Hart said. “It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to today. What these guys have accomplished together is incredible.”