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Instant recap: NC State falls via Kentucky walk-off to open College World Series

image_6483441 (3)by:Noah Fleischman06/15/24


OMAHA, Neb. — NC State grabbed its first lead of its College World Series opener against Kentucky in the ninth, but the Wildcats didn’t go away.

With freshman reliever Jacob Dudan on the bump for his second inning of relief, the Wildcats jumped on him in a hurry. First baseman Ryan Nicholson hit a leadoff solo shot to knot the game before Wolfpack closer Derrick Smith kept the score level to force extras. 

But the Pack went down in order to start the 10th and the Wildcats used a walk-off home run from Mitchell Daly to skate past NC State. 

NC State fell 5-4 in 10 innings to open its stay in Omaha as Kentucky earned its first College World Series win in program history on Saturday afternoon at Charles Schwab Field. The Pack will play the loser of No. 4 Texas A&M/Florida on Monday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game. 

In the early going, it appeared Kentucky was going to control the game with its offense. NC State starter Sam Highfill tried to pick off Emilien Pitre in the first inning, but he threw the ball into center field, allowing the Wildcats to have a runner on third. Pitre came around to score soon after on a two-out RBI single. 

Though the Pack leveled the score in the third with a junior catcher Jacob Cozart RBI single, the Wildcats were able to jump back in front. Kentucky, which worked a lot of long at-bats against Highfill, clubbed a two-run homer in the fourth to regain the lead. 

NC State had a chance to make some noise in the fifth with two runners on and nobody out, but Kentucky’s infield defense put an end to the threat in quick work. Cozart grounded to first baseman Ryan Nicholson, who turned a 3-6-3 double play. 

That two-out swing appeared to take the wind out of the Wolfpack’s sails in the frame and junior shortstop Brandon Butterworth grounded out to end the frame. But not for long.

Although the Wolfpack’s offense seemed to stall out following the double play — a 1-2-3 sixth and two quick outs in the seventh — graduate third baseman Alec Makarewicz had other ideas.

The former East Carolina transfer faced Kentucky starter Trey Pooser for the fourth time of the game and he clubbed a two-run shot on the righty’s 100th pitch into the wind over the right field fence to knot the score up at three each.

That seemed helped turn the momentum in the Wolfpack’s favor, which included Highfill beginning the seventh inning on 107 pitches. He worked a three up, three down frame to keep the contest level heading into the final two frames. 

The Apex, N.C., native went seven innings and he allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts on 116 total pitches.

Highfill’s will appeared to carry over into freshman reliever Jacob Dudan’s eighth inning of work. He allowed a leadoff walk to Pitre, who stole second and advanced to third on a balk. But Dudan stayed composed and recorded three straight outs to escape the jam with the score level.

Dudan’s ability to pitch himself out of trouble allowed the Wolfpack to strike in the ninth inning. Pennington was able to score the go-ahead run. 

But Kentucky was able to finish the game stronger than NC State, resulting in the Wolfpack being sent to the loser’s bracket. Now, the Pack will await its next SEC foe of the postseason with its season on the line. 

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