If you happened to be new to NC State athletics this weekend, you got quite a lesson. The Wolfpack's odds of getting out of the Fort Worth Regional were low from the outset, but they improved substantially with Chance Shepard's game-turning home run on Saturday night.
Those heroics ultimately led to a showdown game between the Pack and Frogs on Monday night--a game that State controlled almost from the outset, forcing TCU to remove its starter early. NC State built an 8-1 lead with six outs to go, and from there everything went to shit.
Ryne Willard committed a pair of errors at second base that would have made the bottom half of the eighth a routine procedure, but instead the Horned Frogs worked six runs home amid NC State's self-destruction. State brought in Tommy DeJuneas and Travis Orwig amid the chaos, but it was no use for a team that was obviously shaken.
State got out of the eighth with a one-run lead, only to surrender the tying run in the ninth. TCU got the game-winner in the 10th, because of course TCU got the game-winner in the 10th. NC State finished the night with six errors, most of them at absolutely critical times. Whether it was simply fielding a ground ball or deciding whether or not to cut off a throw from the outfield, the infielders made the game-critical mistakes that cost them this regional.
No doubt it's tough to pitch in high-leverage situations when you feel like you can't trust the guys behind you, and that doomed NC State against the opportunistic Frogs. The "hey, y'all, we're still winning this thing despite that bad inning" speech garners only so much mileage, and State looked like shell-shocked dead men walking as the game went to extras.
So that's it, and this is the end. Hello and welcome to the end. NC State very nearly took two of three on the road from a top-five team. The Pack clubbed the heck out of TCU's all-star closer and beat up a quality weekend starter. Ninety-nine percent of the time, their 8-1 lead in the eighth carries them to the next round. This was that other time.