RALEIGH The ovations grew louder Sunday night each time a successful N.C. State reliever left the mound at Doak Field.
The determined fans who returned from a 79-minute rain delay could sense the Wolfpack was about to advance to the second NCAA tournament super regional in its history.
N.C. State's relievers made sure it happened by concluding the Raleigh Regional with five scoreless innings after the delay to complete a 2-1 defeat of South Carolina. Over 11 innings in the regional, the Wolfpack's bullpen allowed just one hit and no runs.
"The thing that I really like about N.C. State and makes them as good as they are is that bullpen," said South Carolina coach Ray Tanner.
In a best-of-3 super regional that will start Friday or Saturday, N.C. State (41-20) will meet the winner of today's game between Georgia and Georgia Tech in Athens. The super regional will be in Athens if Georgia wins, but N.C. State will host if Georgia Tech wins.
The super regional winner will advance to the College World Series. N.C. State's only previous super regional appearance came in 2003. The Wolfpack's only College World Series appearance came in 1968, before the super regional format debuted.
After Reese Havens led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, N.C. State's pitchers didn't allow another run as the Gamecocks (40-23) were held to three hits.
"South Carolina is one of the best-hitting teams in the country," said Sam Brown, who pitched 2 1/3 innings for the win. "We just went out there and got ahead of them. If you get ahead of batters, you get outs."
Jeremy Synan's fifth-inning home run tied the game before the rain delay. Brown (4-1) replaced starter Eric Surkamp after the delay and retired six straight batters.
Matt Payne's bases-loaded single in the seventh broke the tie. With runners on first and third and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Drew Taylor faced the Gamecocks' Justin Smoak.
Smoak is expected to be one of the top 10 selections in the major-league draft Thursday and was the most outstanding player of the regional. But Taylor got him to lift a towering fly ball to center field.
The Wolfpack retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth. Kyle Rutter worked two-thirds of an inning and Oregon State transfer Alex Sogard recorded the final four outs.
"We may not have scored a lot of runs, but we did what championship teams have to do," said N.C. State coach Elliott Avent. "A lot of clutch hits. Clutch plays. And obviously clutch pitching from a lot of people."
UNC Wilmington 15, Elon 11
North Carolina 7, UNC Wilmington 3
AT CONWAY, S.C.
East Carolina 16, Alabama 1
Coastal Carolina 24, East Carolina 11
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less