Pack One Win Away From Omaha

After squandering several chances in the opener to score with runners in scoring position, Wolfpack batters came up with big hits in the second game of the Athens Super Regional, defeating Georgia 10-6 to force a decisive third game.

The game didn't start so good for the Wolfpack, who was playing as the home team. With freshman righthander Jason Buchanan on the mound, Georgia leadoff hitter Ryan Peisel hit Buchanan's second pitch over the wall in right center, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. The hit didn't rattle Buchanan, who would settle down.

NC State got the run back for him in the bottom of the inning. After Ryan Pond walked, he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Wolfpack junior centerfielder Marcus Jones singled through the middle of the infield to score Pond, knotting the game up at 1-1.

The Wolfpack went back to work offensively in the third, and again it started with a Ryan Pond walk. Matt Payne singled through the left side, advancing Pond to second. After Marcus Jones struck out, State had two outs, but the hitters made plays. Jeremy Synan's single to left scored Pond, and freshman designated hitter Russell Wilson singled to right on a 3-1 count to score Payne. Another single, this time from Tommy Foschi, plated Synan, and just like that the Wolfpack led 4-1 with all the momentum.

The Bulldogs added a run in the fourth and fifth innings to cut the Wolfpack's lead to 4-3, but overall the freshman Buchanan pitched solid for NC State. In 5.1 innings, he allowed six hits and three earned runs, but did enough to get the Wolfpack into the middle innings where their strong bullpen could take over.

Additional runs would help, and State added those in the seventh. As the Wolfpack did in the first and third innings, they started the seventh with a leadoff walk, this time from No. 9 hitter Drew Martin. Leadoff hitter Dallas Poulk came to the plate, and after attempting to bunt on the first pitch, Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent called for a bunt-slap hit from Poulk who executed it perfectly. He started out showing bunt but pulled the bat back and slapped the pitch down the third base line for a double that advanced Martin to third. With no outs, the Wolfpack had runners on second and third.

Ryan Pond came through with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Martin and after back-to-back walks by Marcus Jones and Matt Payne, Jeremy Synan drew a walk to score Poulk. With the bases loaded, Wilson hit a groundball to third, but beat out the throw from second to breakup the double play, allowing another run to score. Following Tommy Foschi's RBI double, the Wolfpack led 8-3 and the Bulldog crowd was noticably silent. In the seventh, the Wolfpack batted around and used two doubles and four walks to score four runs.

NC State added two more insurance runs in the eighth, but wouldn't need them as Alex Sogard, who took over for Buchanan in the sixth, came in and shut the door on Georgia. A hard-throwing lefty who transferred to NC State after winning back-to-back national titles at Oregon State, Sogard pitched 3.1 innings, allowing just four hits and three earned runs, all three coming in the ninth inning. His ability to neutralize the Bulldogs through the middle innings while Georgia's bullpen struggled proved to be the difference in the game.

In the 10-6 win, the Wolfpack was 7-of-12 with runners in scoring position and turned three double plays defensively. Buchanan got the win, and closer Eryk McConnell recorded the final out for the Wolfpack.

Offensively, Tommy Foschi, Russell Wilson, Ryan Pond and Jeremy Synan each knocked in two RBIs.

Sunday's third and final game in the Super Regional will be played at 4:00 p.m. Because NC State was able to pitch Buchanan today, that leaves veteran lefty Eric Surkamp (5-2) available to start the crucial third game. Georgia is expected to start senior righthander Nick Montgomery (3-2).

The winner of Sunday's game will advance to the College World Series, played in Omaha, Nebraska. NC State has only reached one College World Series in school history, that trip coming 40 years ago in 1968. It won't be easy, as Georgia is 15-0 in postseason elimination games at Foley Field, winning Super Regionals in 2001, 2004, and 2006.


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