College Sports

Shepard rallies NC State for 5-4 win over TCU in NCAA baseball

N.C. State's Tommy DeJuneas, right, is greeted at home plate by teammates after scoring the tying run against TCU on a two-run home run hit by designated hitter Chance Shepard in the ninth inning at the Fort Worth Regional of the NCAA college baseball tournament.
N.C. State's Tommy DeJuneas, right, is greeted at home plate by teammates after scoring the tying run against TCU on a two-run home run hit by designated hitter Chance Shepard in the ninth inning at the Fort Worth Regional of the NCAA college baseball tournament. AP

Chance Shepard doesn't remember where the pitch was, only that it was a fastball. Because that's all he was looking for Saturday night when he stepped into the box against Riley Ferrell, the powerful TCU closer who will likely go in the first round of next week's MLB Draft.

Fastball. That's what he remembers. The location, the swing and the contact were all a blur. He just knew he found his fastball.

"I completely forgot going around the bases," Shepard said. "It was pretty cool. Obviously, it was the best moment of my life."

Shepard's two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning lifted N.C. State to a 5-4 win over TCU in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional.

The Wolfpack, playing in front of the Horned Frogs' home crowd at Lupton Stadium, fell behind in the seventh inning, when TCU's Garrett Crain lofted an RBI flyout to right field. From there, N.C. State (36-21) went scoreless again in the eighth against the Frogs' starter Preston Morrison, who struck out 10.

But as the ninth inning came -- and Morrison's pitch count sat at 110 -- TCU (44-12) brought in Ferrell and his 0.67 ERA to clinch a spot in Sunday's regional championship game.

Bubby Riley struck out swinging and so did Joe Dunand, bringing the Wolfpack to its final out. Then Ferrell, who struggled with his control at the Big 12 tournament last week, walked Ryne Willard on five pitches.

Shepard, hitless with two strikeouts to that point, stepped in.

"I knew Ferrell was just a power guy," Shepard said. "Morrison is going to try to be more crafty, and try to get yourself out, really. I was just looking for that fastball."

Shepard fouled the first pitch, took for a ball, and then drilled a game-winner 400 feet over the center field wall.

"We've been there before, we knew how to do it," Shepard said, "and that was one of the greatest games of my life right there."

N.C. State's comeback, which was capped by Travis Orwig striking out Garrett Crain to end the game, was the most dramatic line in a game full of emotion.

In the third, Crain's inside the park home run -- a line drive that skipped under the glove of left fielder Brock Deatherage -- put TCU up 1-0. The Wolfpack then followed with three runs in the fourth when Willard doubled and Dunand scored on a wild pitch.

Shepard then lined a grounder to third baseman Derek Odell, who snagged it and threw home in time for catcher Evan Skoug to apply a forceful tag on Willard.

Willard popped up and yelled at Skoug, but the umpire broke it up. The next batter, Jake Fincher, grounded into an inning-ending double play. But as soon as Fincher was called out at first, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle darted out of the dugout toward the infield umpire, objecting that Shepard slid "high" into second.

Meanwhile, TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos and N.C. State coach Elliott Avent converged toward home plate, yelling at each other as their players gathered in front of the dugout.

"I don't think the benches were about to come out at all," Avent said. "It was an emotional game, and when you have an emotional game like that, you hear a little jawing. I saw somebody say something to one of our players -- I didn't know if it was to me. I just answered back was all."

Jeremie Fagnan homered for TCU in the next inning, and Cody Jones came through with an RBI single in the sixth to tie NC State at 3-3. But mostly, Wolfpack starter Brian Brown was steady.

The freshman went 6 1/3 innings and struck out eight. At one point in his duel with Morrison, the pair struck out a combined six straight batters.

"It was definitely a crazy atmosphere," Brown said. "Everybody's yelling at you, heckling you. But I've always been able to stay calm, and just take big breaths."

N.C. State will play the winner of TCU and Stony Brook at 8 p.m. Sunday. A win would clinch a berth in next week's Super Regionals, while a loss would force an "if" game Monday.

  Comments