Improbable, late-inning comeback lifts Wolfpack to regional title

Down 7-3 to Vanderbilt in the eighth inning, it appeared that NC State’s baseball season would soon end. But, in front of a raucous sell-out crowd in Raleigh, the Wolfpack scored three runs in the eighth and three runs in the ninth to win the regional by a 9-7 score Monday night. The victory lifts the Pack into a Super Regional in Florida.

Tarran Senay drove in five runs in the miraculous Wolfpack comeback victory over Vanderbilt to advance to the Gainesville Super Regional, Monday night.

A sold out crowd of 3,018 witnessed the Pack (43-18) rally from a 7-3 eighth-inning deficit to eliminate Vanderbilt (35-28). The two teams played to a 1-1 tie through one inning before State grabbed a 3-1 lead in the top third. Vandy came back with five runs in the bottom half to take control, and added another in the fifth to stretch the lead to four. Then the Wolfpack scored three runs in the eighth, and another three in the ninth to secure the win.

NC State advances to its third NCAA Super Regional since 2003. The Wolfpack advanced from the 2003 Wilson (N.C.) Regional, and the 2008 Raleigh Regional with three-straight wins on both occasions.

Senay didn’t enter the game until the seventh, but made an incredible impression over the next three innings. The junior finished the game 2-for-2 with a three-run homer and five RBIs, chopping the Commodore lead to one in the eight, and supplying the game-winning hit in the ninth.

Reliever Ryan Wilkins (5-2) scored his second win of the weekend, this time on the longest outing of his career, shutting out Vanderbilt for 4 2/3 innings and striking out six.

Trea Turner went 3-for-6 with one RBI, one run, and a stolen base to improve to 56-for-60 on the season. Danny Canela drove in one and scored once in a 2-for-6 performance. Senior captain Andrew Ciencin continued his torrid regional performance with a 2-for-5 evening and an RBI. Logan Ratledge hit a double and scored twice in a 1-for-4 outing.

NC State grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Turner led off the game with an infield single on a liner rocketed off of the pitcher’s hip. A bunt moved him to second, and a groundball pushed him to third with two away. Canela lifted a flare over the third baseman’s head that dropped fair to plate the game’s opening run.

Vanderbilt answered to tie the game 1-1 on Mike Yastrzemski’s one-out, solo shot to right center in the bottom first.

State managed a pair of runs in the third to jump ahead 3-1 thanks to some costly Commodore errors. Chris Diaz walked as the lead-off, but a swinging strikeout put one away. Canela singled to the left center gap, holding after Jack Lupo made a sliding play to save a double and a run. With runners on the corners, Ciencin hit a dribbler to the left side that the third baseman booted, scoring one. Fincher bunted and reached on a fielding error by the pitcher. Brett Austin grounded to short with the bases loaded, but beat the throw to break up a potentially inning-ending double play and drive in the third run.

The Commodores exploded for five runs in the third to leap in front 6-3. Tony Kemp doubled to left center as the lead-off, and Yastrzemski hit an RBI single up the middle before stealing second and moving to third on a groundout. Conrad Gregor drove him in with a single to center, then took second on a wild pitch. Spencer Navin walked to put two on with one out. Riley Reynolds singled to center to load the bases. Gregor scored and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A grounder to short produced the second out as Diaz fired home in time to get the lead runner, but Connor Castellano drove in the next two with a double to the wall in center.

Vanderbilt added to the lead with a run in the fifth to make it 7-3. Navin took a pitch in the shoulder to start the inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and went to third on a sac bunt. Connor Harrell walked to put runners on the corners with one out. Castellano hooked a double into the right field corner to score Navin, but Harrell was gunned down on a relay from Austin to Bergquist to Canela, putting a stop to the rally.

The Pack electrified the crowd in the top eighth by cutting the lead to 7-6. Austin drew a lead off walk and Ratledge sent a laser down the left field line for a double to put two in scoring position. Senay came to the plate next, and put a charge into a 3-2 pitch, blasting it miles into the trees behind the right field fence for a three-run homer. Reliever Will Clinard entered after a two-out single by Ryan Mathews and ended the inning on the first batter he faced.

In the ninth, State triumphed with three runs to put the game away. Ciencin led off the inning with a single up the middle, and Bryan Adametz took his place as the pinch runner. Fincher laid down a sac bunt to push him to second, and reached when the throw to first hit him in the hand. A groundout to first advanced both runners into scoring position, and Ratledge was walked to load the bases. Senay took center stage once again, delivering the game-winning hit to score a pair with one out. Turner singled behind him to add the insurance run and set the final at 9-7.

NC State advances to the Gainesville Super Regional beginning Saturday, June 9 at 2 p.m. The Wolfpack will need to win a best-of-three series against host Florida to advance to its first College World Series since 1968. Games one and two will be aired on ESPNU, and if necessary game three will be carried by ESPN2. Radio coverage for the super regional will be provided by 88.1 WKNC, fans can follow Twitter updates from @NCStateBaseball, and live stats will be available at

– News release