Dent's 2-Run Homer Propels Pack to ACC Softball Title Game
May 10, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Senior Caitlin Dent, on the day before she officially receives her degree in sport management, gave NC State's softball team a graduation present by sending the Wolfpack to Saturday's ACC Softball championship game with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Friday afternoon's 3-1 semifinal win over Virginia Tech at JoAnne Graf Field.
The Wolfpack (32-18-2) advances to its third ACC title game in its 10-year history and the first since losing to Virginia Tech in the 2008 championship game. It also won the 2006 title with a win over North Carolina.
The Pack will play top-seeded host Florida State, a 3-0 winner in Friday's other semifinal, for the championship.
Friday's victory over the Hokies was the Pack's 11th straight victory and 18th in its last 20 contests. The winning streak matches the second longest in school history. The school mark is 16 in a row, set in 2007.
"It's pretty exciting," said first-year head coach Shawn Rychcik. "I am so happy for my upperclassmen and so happy for everyone here. They have worked so hard and believed in what we have asked them to do all year.
"That's what we came here to do, to win the championship."
Dent and NC State's fifth-year seniors, Katie Mansilla and Bethaney Wells, are all set to graduate from NC State, but will be unavailable for Saturday's commencement exercises at PNC Arena. Instead, they will play in the 6 p.m. title game at JoAnne Graf Field, in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN2.
"I wouldn't want to be anywhere but right here, trying to win an ACC Championship," Dent said.
Dent's homer in the fifth came just after Virginia Tech tied the game 1-1 in the top of the inning on a run-scoring single by Dani Anderson. Second-team All-ACC catcher Kirsty Grant led off the Pack's half of the fifth inning with a single up the middle. She was erased from the base paths on Renada Davis' fielder's choice to bring up Dent.
Just before she stepped in the box, Rychcik called her over to the third base line.
"He pulled me off to the side and said just relax and hit a line drive," Dent said. "I had a feeling of what the sequence was going to be. I just wanted to get my hacks, and it went over the fence."
The Boynton Beach, Fla. native, smashed her 14th of the season over the left-field wall, tying the previous school record set in 2010 by Stephanie Call, but broken earlier this year by Davis, who has an NCAA-leading 26 on the year.
Dent has now homered in four of the Wolfpack's last five games, which is one of the reasons Rychcik anticipated a big hit was on the way.
"When you hit 86 home runs on the year, you have to believe it is going to happen eventually," Rychcik said. "It just takes us one pitch to be really good on. You don't have to be perfect on every pitch of every at-bat.
"She got a hanging change-up and just crushed it."
Davis extended her hitting streak to a school-record-tying 11 consecutive games with a third-inning double to right-center field. That ties the mark set by Jen Chamberlain in 2007.
For the second consecutive game, junior Scout Albertson came to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning. Against Virginia, she hit a sacrifice fly to give the Pack a 1-0 lead. Against Virginia Tech, she hit another soft fly ball to left field that bounced off the Hokie fielder's glove.
Dent scored the game's first run, but Chelsea Tate was out at third base. The Pack ended the first inning with a 1-0 lead.
The Hokies threatened in both the second and third innings, advancing runners to second and third with two outs both times. Weiman struck out Amada Ake to end the first threat and clean-up hitter Kylie McGoldrick grounded out to second to end the other.
In the top of the seventh, the Hokies loaded the bases with one out on a pair of singles and a Weiman walk. But McGoldrick hit a short liner to left field that Wells was able to catch and hold the runner on third and Weiman struck out Bailey Liddle to end the game.
The team, picked to finish sixth in a preseason poll of coaches, then celebrated its opportunity to play for a league title.
"I can't even describe my feelings right now," Dent said. "I am unbelievably excited about our team. This is all we have been looking forward to all year, getting to the ACC Championship game.
"Now that we're here, I am speechless. I can't believe we made it this far."
Follow the team on Twitter (@PackSoftball), by liking the official NC State Facebook page and at www.GoPack.com/softball.