NC State falls to Kentucky in College World Series opener

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Mitchell Daly homered in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Kentucky a 5-4 win over North Carolina State on Saturday, the third straight College World Series game to end in walk-off fashion.

The Wildcats had tied it in the bottom of the ninth on Ryan Nicholson’s homer, and Daly ended it with two outs when he launched a shot into the left-field bullpen.

Kentucky (46-14), in its first CWS, set a program record for wins in a season and will play Monday night against the winner of Saturday night’s Florida-Texas A&M matchup. NC State will play the Florida-Texas A&M loser in an elimination game in the afternoon.

The Wolfpack (38-22) went to the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead in its first game in Omaha since a COVID-19 outbreak on the team led the NCAA to removing them from the 2021 CWS after their third game.

But Nicholson sliced Jacob Dudan’s 96-mph fast ball just inside the left-field foul pole, and barely over the fence, for his 22nd home run to tie it 4-all.

The Wildcats got a runner to third after that but couldn’t push him across. After Johnny Hummel (4-0) pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 10th, the stage was set for Daly.

The Texas transfer was down 1-2 against closer Derrick Smith (3-2) when he turned on a pitch and lofted it high down the line and over the fence, the ball staying fair despite a wind gusting to 25 mph pushing it left.

North Carolina and Tennessee won their CWS openers on Friday on bottom-of-the-ninth singles, making this the first time in the 74-year history of the event that three straight games had ended in walk-off fashion. It also was the second time the first three games in the CWS were decided by one run; last year was the first time.

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