Stetson
Rickles

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A walk-off single from Stetson catcher Nick Rickles scored pinch-runner Sean Emory from second to give the Hatters a thrilling 8-7 victory against North Carolina State in the first game of the 2011 NCAA Columbia Regional on Friday afternoon.

After a one-out single from third baseman Nick Carhart, Emory came on as a pinch-runner and promptly advanced to second on a wild pitch from NC State closer Chris Overmann. Rickles, who already had a hit and an RBI in the game, ripped a single to left field, which was then bobbled by the Wolfpack left fielder to allow Emory to score and give the Hatters the victory.

Stetson improved to 42-18 for the year while NC State fell to 34-26. The Hatters will face the winner of tonight’s South Carolina-Georgia Southern game at 7 p.m. Saturday; the Wolfpack will take on the loser of that contest at 1 p.m.

NC State lost for just the fifth time all season when out-hitting its opponent. Most of the damage came from the 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup, which were a combined 9-for-15 in the game. Harold Riggins led the way for NCSU with a 4-for-5 outing that included a home run and two RBI. Danny Canela was 3-for-5 with a season-high four RBI, and leadoff hitter Brett Williams had a 3-for-5 day with two runs scored.

For Stetson, four hitters had two hits apiece, led by Mark Jones with a 2-for-4 effort that included a homer and four RBIs. Jeff Simpson, Robert Crews and Rickles each had two hits as well.

Jake Boyd (9-1) earned the victory with three stellar innings of relief in which he gave up no runs on just two hits while striking out six. Chris Overman (6-3) was charged with the loss for NC State, giving up the winning run in the ninth as he gave up two hits to the three batters he faced.

The Wolfpack struck first in the opening frame. After Williams led off the ballgame with a base hit and moved up to second on a failed pickoff attempt, Canela drove him in with a 2-out RBI single to center to make it 1-0.

NC State then added to their lead in the third. After a carbon-copy of what happened in the first inning – a 2-out single from Canela to score Williams from second – made it 2-0, Harold Riggins blasted his fourth home run of the season over the wall in center field to double the Wolfpack lead to 4-0. After two more two-out hits put runners at second and third, Cameron Conner scored from third on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.

After the first 10 Stetson batters failed to record a base hit, Robert Crews got things rolling with a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. And the Hatters took off from there. Nick Rickles ripped a two-out base hit, then Mark Jones followed up with his fifth home run of the season to score Crews and Rickles to pull the Hatters to within striking distance at 5-3.

The Hatters would tie things up in the fifth inning and chase NC State starter Ethan Ogburn in the process. A leadoff base hit by Ryan Lashley brought up right fielder Mitchel Brennan, whose deep fly ball cleared the right-field wall by inches to give him his second homer of the year and tie the score at 5-5. With the new pitcher for NC State on the mound, the Hatters kept on hitting, ripping two more shots to put runners on first and second. After a pop fly for the first out, Simpson and Crews executed a double steal to put two runners in scoring position, and Stetson took its first lead when a deep fly from Rickles scored Simpson from third to make it 6-5. A two-out base hit from Jones brought home Crews to make it 7-5; Jones was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play, ending the inning.

NC State answered in the top of the seventh, tying the game on a two-run blast from Canela that left the confines of the ballpark and landed on Williams Street beyond the right-field wall to make it 7-7. Stetson would then load the bases in the bottom of the seventh but could not get a run across; the Hatters would also leave a pair of runners aboard in the eighth.