COLUMBIA, S.C. — The story of Georgia Southern’s postseason from the Southern Conference tournament to the NCAA regionals was all about starting pitching.
Saturday in the first elimination game of the Columbia regional, the tank finally hit empty.
The Eagles got five strong innings from Chris Beck, but N.C. State scored a pair of runs in both the sixth and ninth innings to end GSU’s season with a 5-2 win at Carolina Stadium.
For three-straight games, the Eagles (36-26) faced the ace of the opponent’s pitching staff. From the 1-0 win over Samford in the SoCon title game, to the 2-1 loss to fourth-overall seed South Carolina Friday in the regional opener, GSU pitching went toe-to-toe with its opponents.
"You hear it all the time — good pitching is usually going to beat good hitting," said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. "That’s been the case. This time of year, you have to really pitch, and that’s what got us here."
N.C. State (35-26) starter Cory Mazzoni, a hard thrower with a slider and a curveball to compliment his mid-90s fastball, was just too much to handle.
Mazzoni worked eight innings, fanning 12 Eagles — nine swinging — and allowing two earned runs on four hits.
"With guy with that kind of velocity, it’s hard not to chase a braking pitch out of the zone," Hennon said. "That’s the difference in a guy throwing 92 and a guy throwing 85."
Chris Beck was good, pitching five Georgia Southern innings and allowing only two hits and one earned run from the mound — a solo home run by Danny Canela that tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth — but left the game after facing just one batter in the sixth. He walked Brett Williams on four straight pitches.
"All in all I thought my stuff was there," said Beck. "The cards just fell a little differently than they did last week [in the SoCon tournament]."
Relief pitcher Matt Murray (3 IP, 3 K, 3 H, ER) eventually gave up back-to-back singles that allowed Williams and Wolfpack catcher Pratt Maynard to score and put N.C. State ahead 3-1.
The Eagles scratched out a run in the sixth when Eric Phillips singled hard to left, stole second, took third on a flyout by Steve Cochrane and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-2.
Tom Richardson came a few feet from tying the game in the seventh, when he hammered a 1-2 pitch to right field, but N.C. State outfielder Cameron Conner scaled the fence to make the catch at the top of the wall and rob extra bases.
The Wolfpack padded its lead with two more runs in the ninth off GSU reliever Jarret Leverett.
Georgia Southern opened the scoring in the bottom of the first after leadoff hitter Shawn Payne was hit by a Mazzoni pitch to start the game. Payne stole second and scored on an RBI double to left-center by Victor Roache, who finished the game 2-for-4 after going hitless Friday against the Gamecocks.
With the season in the books, the Eagles will turn their attention to the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, which begins Monday.
Senior pitcher Andy Moye is expected to hear his name called in the three-day draft. He was drafted once out of high school and again after the 2010 season before deciding to return for his senior year at GSU.
Payne was also drafted in 2010 and returned to play out his senior year as an Eagle. Steve Cochrane, also eligible, is the only other senior on the 2011 squad.
Phillips and Murray are among the 10 juniors who are also eligible.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.