ATHENS, Ga. -- NC State advanced to the final of the NCAA Athens Regional with a 5-4 win against host and No. 1 seed Georgia on Saturday afternoon. The Wolfpack are now 2-0 in the double-elimination regional field.
“We were fortunate enough to come out on top,” head coach Shawn Rychcik said. “They’re a really good team. We were just managing to get enough outs and get out with the win. We knew we could play better than we did the first time we played them this season and we obviously did.”
The Wolfpack jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a solo home run from Molly Hutchison. She hit a 2-1 pitch off the scoreboard in left field for her 10th homer of the season.
Georgia tied the score at one in the bottom of the third following an RBI single from Katie Browne. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the inning, but NC State’s starting pitcher Emily Weiman rose to the occasion with back-to-back called strikeouts to escape the jam.
“I’m usually pretty good under pressure and I trust my defense,” said Weiman. “Today I was just telling myself to not give in and that was probably the main thing that helped me get through those innings and tough spots. I was focused on slowing the game down and taking it one pitch at a time.”
Lana Van Dyken put the Wolfpack back in the lead in the top of the fourth with a solo home run. She smashed a 1-0 pitch to deep right field and it carried over the foul pole for her second round-tripper of the season as the Pack regained the advantage, 2-1.
The Bulldogs once again had an answer for the Wolfpack, as UGA knotted the score at two in the bottom half of the fourth. Paige Wilson doubled to start the frame and later scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Alex Hugo.
In the top of the sixth inning, NC State took a 3-2 lead on Georgia after Leah Jones drew a walk with the bases loaded. Kirsty Grant singled to start the inning and moved over to third base on a base hit by Van Dyken before Hutchison was intentionally walked to load the bases.
State tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh with four hits and a walk in the frame. Sara Lippard started the inning with a walk, before consecutive singles by Grant and Davis to load the bases. Van Dyken delivered a two-RBI double to deep left center scoring Lippard and Grant on the play as the Pack extended its lead to 5-2.
“After my first at-bat I told myself to slow down and focus more on the ball and not get caught up in fans and what’s going on around me,” said Van Dyken. “I saw the low inside pitch coming and I thought that I could hit the ball well, so I just rotated my hips and turned on it.”
The insurance runs proved to be crucial as Georgia scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Weiman and the Wolfpack preserved the lead and retired the side to end the game.
Weiman picked up her 30th win of the season in the circle and tossed her 32nd complete game of the season. She struck out five batters in the contest.
Van Dyken paced the squad at the plate with a 3-for-4 outing, including three RBI. Grant and Hutchison were both 2-for-3, while Davis had one hit in the contest.