Wells' two-run home run backs Weiman as NC State beats James Madison 2-0
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Senior Bethaney Wells, NC State's top home-run hitter the past two seasons, laced a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Wolfpack a 2-0 victory against James Madison in the Knoxville Regional opener Friday.
It's the first time in school history that the Wolfpack (34-18-1) has won its opening game in an NCAA Regional. In both 2006 and '07, the Pack lost its opener and won its second game in the loser's bracket.
The Pack, which has won 13 in a row and 20 of its past 22, moves on to face No. 5 Tennessee at UT's Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
"I struggled all day off of her, because she was hitting her spots and I wasn't making contact," Wells said of James Madison pitcher Jailyn Ford. "But on that at-bat, she left one out in my sweet spot and I did with it what I am supposed to do.
"It was what we needed at the time."
Wells' shot, banged over the right-field wall and into the side of James Madison's parked bus, drove in Katie Mansilla, who was pinch running for Hanna Sommer. Sommer drew a one-out walk ahead of Wells.
It was Wells' eighth homer of the season and the 30th of her career, which is in sole possession of third place in school history behind Jenn Chamberlain's 49 and Renada Davis' 31. Wells led the Wolfpack with nine homers in 2011 and 11 in '12.
It was also Wells' second hit of the day, making her the only player on either team with multiple hits in the classic pitcher's duel between Ford and Emily Weiman (32-16).
Weiman was strong throughout the game, though she had only two strikeouts. She gave up no walks and three singles, one to lead off the game and back-to-back flares to right field in the fifth inning when the Dukes mounted their biggest threat -- and the Pack defense turned in a game-saving double play.
James Madison put runners on second and third with one out thanks to a pair of right-field singles and a sacrifice bunt. Catherine Clavin then hit a fly ball to right field that Scout Albertson caught for the second out and threw to catcher Kirsty Grant at home plate.
After an initial bobble, Grant grabbed the ball and chased the tagging runner back to third base, diving and getting the runner on the heel with her mitt. She didn't need it, but Grant also tagged out the runner from second base, who was standing nearby.
"We got ourselves into a little bit of trouble," NC State first-year head coach Shawn Rychcik said. "The flare to right wasn't a big hit. The second was pretty solid. On the fly ball, we short-hopped our catcher a little bit and she made a great pick up of the ball and chased the runner down the line.
"She just barely got her on the heel. The good thing is that if we hadn't got her, we had the third out standing right there."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wolfpack put runners in scoring position thanks to a single by Wells and back-to-back errors by James Madison's infield. With the bases loaded, Caitlin Dent grounded out to shortstop to end the Pack's biggest threat of the first five innings.
"I really think, though, that double play gave us the momentum," Rychcik said. "We felt confident that we would get some runs for Emily in those last innings."
The Wolfpack is now 3-4 all time in NCAA regional play.