N.C. State started the baseball season with so much confidence; there was talk of a parade to celebrate the national title. After Sundays collapse against Duke, theres only confusion for the Wolfpack.
And thats the last place the Wolfpack needs to be mentally with the only scheduled meeting of the season with rival North Carolina up next on Tuesday night in Durham.
This game was put together as a showcase for two teams that met in the College World Series last June, and three times in one an epic postseason span, but instead it has devolved into a survival game with implications not for national seeding in the NCAA tournament but merely a spot in the 64-team field.
The Wolfpack (20-15) enters the nonconference game with the Tar Heels (21-15) in the most fragile of psychological states after coughing up a 10-4 lead against Duke in the eighth inning of Sundays 11-10 loss.
After Sundays loss, star shortstop Trea Turner described the reeling Wolfpack, a top 10 team nationally to start the season but now 12th in the ACC, as a little bit confused.
Anytime we do something good, something else fails us, Turner said. We didnt hit at all Friday night, and Carlos (Rodon) pitched very well. And then today we hit very well, and the pitching kind of failed.
We havent played a complete ball game all year. Thats what is going to happen when you dont play a complete ball game.
Sundays collapse gave Duke the series and dropped the Wolfpack to 6-12 in the ACC. This game with the Tar Heels, who are 9-9 in the ACC, wont count in the standings but it could serve as a salvaging point for States season.
The Wolfpack is running out of time and chances to save its season, a concept not lost on coach Elliott Avent, who had hoped his team had turned a corner after taking two of three games at Clemson the first weekend of April.
But N.C. State went to East Carolina on April 9 and got shut out, 7-0. The Pack dropped the first game of the Duke series 2-0 on Friday. State won Saturdays game with the Blue Devils 6-2 and built a six-run lead on Sunday.
To come back and play this well the last two games just to give it up the way we gave it up the way we gave it up was absolutely ridiculous thats an embarrassment, Avent said after Sundays loss.
The Wolfpack has to somehow put the devastating loss behind them and get ready for the Tar Heels. The teams split two games in the CWS, with UNC ending States season with a 7-0 victory on June 20.
With so many of the main parts back from last years team, N.C. State went into this season with the stated goal of not just getting back to Omaha for the CWS but winning the schools first national title in any sport since 1983.
There wasnt any talk of another trip to Omaha or a parade after Sundays loss, actually there wasnt much talk at all, Avent said.
What are you going to say to the team after something like this? Avent said. They know what happened, they feel bad.
A loss to UNC on Tuesday and that feeling will only get worse.
Laura Keeley contributed to this report.