RALEIGH — Since 1968, N.C. State had been hoping and trying.
Good teams came and went, but no Wolfpack team could make it back to Omaha for the College World Series. Many Pack fans had to wonder if and when the streak would end, if someone would finally get the big hit and drive in the big run and a pitcher would go to the mound with the resolve to get the final out and make Omaha happen.
On Sunday, the Pack did all that. And the man on the mound when it ended and who got the win was a senior, Ethan Ogburn (5-3).
The Wolfpack scored three clutch runs in the ninth to tie the score at 4 and force extra innings, then finally forged ahead 5-4 with a run in the top of the 17th inning. Thats when Ogburn took center stage, made the big pitches, got the outs as the Wolfpack won the Raleigh Super Regional.
I dont like to single out people, but my gosh, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. Ethan Ogburn has been here for four years and pretty much been a four-year starter. This last half of the season it hasnt always gone his way.
Ogburn, a righthander, had become something of an overlooked player. The Wolfpack had turned to Carlos Rodon, Brad Stone and Logan Jernigan as their three top starters.
It wears on you mentally, Ogburn said. I had to kind of stay positive. The other pitchers, being good friends with them, they helped me stay positive. They were say, Hey, man, were going to need you.
Ogburn started the regional opener against Binghamton at Doak Field but was relieved in the fourth, allowing a run on five hits. In his start before the NCAA game, Ogburn went 2 1/3 innings against Duke.
He had struggled, I had taken him out with quick hooks three of his last four starts, Avent said. I wasnt very patient with him.
But there Ogburn was Sunday night, in the biggest game of his college career. He pitched the final five innings, allowing just three hits, striking out six. With a trip to Omaha on the line.
The six strikeouts matched his season high. He was cool, in control, not overthrowing.
In the bottom of the 17th, Rices Michael Aquino had a leadoff single. Ogburn fanned Skyler Ewing and then forced Hunter Kopycinski into a groundout.
The Pack was one out away from Omaha. Then one strike away as Ford Stainback fell behind 1-2.
But Stainback managed to beat out an infield hit. Coming to the plate was Christian Stringer, who had four homers Saturday and Sunday.
Avent went to the mound. Would Ogburn be pulled? No.
I probably wouldnt have liked coach too much if he had said thats it, Ogburn said. I wanted the ball. He said, Get after it.
Stringer, a lefthanded batter, could not pull the ball, could not put a good swing on the ball. He lifted a soft fly to left field that Bryan Adametz settled under.
I was just watching it, Ogburn said. I dont think I was thinking anything. But as soon as he caught it ...
Ogburn was quickly engulfed, caught at the bottom of the Wolfpacks dogpile in front of the mound.
It was painful, Ogburn said, smiling. But it was exciting. Very exciting.