NC State Stuns Florida Atlantic In Opener, 6-5

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Dustin Knight's two-out RBI single to center field capped a three-run ninth inning rally as NC State came from behind Friday to defeat Florida Atlantic 6-5 in the first round of the NCAA Coral Gables Regional.

Knight's game-winning hit drove in pinch-runner Ryan Johnson and sent NC State (36-22) into a second-round matchup Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with the winner of the first-round game between host and top-seeded Miami and St. Bonaventure. That game did not begin until approximately 9 p.m. Friday because of a near-two-hour rain delay in the NC State-Florida Atlantic game. Florida Atlantic (45-16) will play the loser of the game between the Hurricanes and Bonnies at noon.

NC State went into the game with second-team All-America righthander Vern Sterry on the mound, which normally is reason for optimism, but Sterry was uncharacteristically wild early, walking three batters in a two-run first inning for the Owls. Jeff Fiorentino led off and walked on five pitches, Derek Hutton singled to left, Tim Maschia walked to load the bases, and Rusty Brown's bloop to shallow right field fell in for an RBI single. After Sterry struck out Rob Horst for the first out, Robbie Widlanski walked to force in a run and make it 2-0. Alex Fonseca grounded into a double play to end the inning.

The Wolfpack got a run back in the bottom of the first on leadoff walks to Matt Camp and Eric Taylor, a sacrifice by David Hicks and an RBI groundout by Mike Jensen. FAU came right back swinging in the top of the second. Robert Orton led off with a double off the top of the wall in left-center for a double, and with one down, Fiorentino belted one over the wall to the same spot, his 17th home run, to give Florida Atlantic a 4-1 lead.

FAU starter Chris Saxton did not allow a hit until Lee Mezistrano's one-out single in the fourth, but kept getting into trouble by walking six hitters in six innings. His defense bailed him out by turning three double plays, and NC State gave him some breaks with some shoddy baserunning. The Wolfpack finally began to stir to life in the bottom of the sixth inning. Eric Taylor led off with a single to center and went to third on Hicks's single to right. With one down, Knight hit a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in Taylor and cutting the Owls' lead to 4-2.

Play was stopped because of lightning in the Miami area following the sixth inning, and that evolved into a rain delay that lasted one hour and 51 minutes. Sterry, hit on the thumb by a line drive into the Wolfpack dugout in the bottom of the sixth, did not return following the rain delay. He was replaced by Adam McLaurin, who wound up getting the win and improved to 3-3 despite a shaky start. Fiorentino led off with a double to deep center field, and McLaurin only made things worse when he threw away Hutton's sacrifice bunt for a run-scoring two-base error. Hutton wound up on second base on the play, but was stranded when Brown flied out and Horst grounded into a double play.

Taylor led off the bottom of the eighth and was hit by a pitch. Hicks singled to right with Taylor going to third on the play, and Jensen hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in center field, driving in Taylor and cutting the FAU lead to 5-3.

The game-winning rally began with Bryan Kinneberg driving a leadoff single to left field off FAU closer Allen Knight (4-2). Jason St. Julien followed with a double to left to put runners on second and third with none out. Camp drove in Kinneberg with a squeeze bunt, and Johnson, running for St. Julien, went to third on the play. Taylor struck out for the second out, but Hicks walked to put runners on first and third with two down. Jensen tied the game with a single to left-center, and Knight followed with a sharp grounder up the middle for the game-winner.

Saturday's game will be broadcast on WKNC-FM (88.1) and will be available on through Yahoo's subscription service. Live in-game stats, provided by the NCAA's website, also will be available on gopack.

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