Hey, how we doin’, how we doin’, I think I just managed to start breathing again about five minutes ago, I don’t know about you. NC State and Vanderbilt played a winners’ bracket game Monday night that was wire-to-wire tension, with pitching performances to match the hype of the high-stakes situation.
It was the kind of game where just one big hit could be the difference. Terrell Tatum is the man who delivered that hit, taking Vanderbilt starter Jack Leiter deep into the right-field seats. It was State’s first hit of the night.
Leiter is an incredible talent and his dominant stuff was on full display—he struck out 15 over eight innings—but he’s also been prone to giving up a long ball here and there. On a lot of nights, a lone solo homer probably doesn’t hurt him, but Sam Highfill was out there matching him shot for shot.
Highfill wasn’t as overpowering but was every bit as impressive in limiting the Commodores to just two hits—one in the first, another in the fifth—and zero runs over 7-1/3 innings. He knew he probably needed to go out there and be great to give his team a chance to win a low-scoring ballgame, and for him to execute as a freshman under that kind of pressure was incredible. What a job.
So, two games in and things have gone exactly to plan for NC State. Reid Johnston went deep into the Stanford game and handed the ball over to Evan Justice with the lead, and Highfill did the same. Elliott Avent could not have asked this to play out any better.
There is an elimination game Wednesday between Stanford and Vanderbilt, but State is off until Friday. The Wolfpack needs one more win to play for a national championship.