RALEIGH — There were so many missed opportunities and close calls for N.C. States baseball team this season, coach Elliott Avent struggled to list them all Monday.
There was the 9-8 loss at Florida State in 13 innings during March, the 11-10 collapse at Duke in April and, most recently and perhaps most costly, a 4-3 decision to North Carolina in the ACC tournament.
All of it added up to N.C. State, a preseason top-five team with a pair of projected top-10 draft picks in pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner, missing the NCAA tournament for just the second time since 2002.
The 64-team field was announced Monday and the Wolfpack was not one of the seven ACC teams to make the bracket. UNC, which benefitted from its win against N.C. State in their only head-to-head meeting this season, was one of the final four teams in the field, according to ESPNU.
We were one of four or five teams on the board at the end and it didnt happen, Avent said. A couple of upsets probably hurt and we just didnt do enough to get in.
Avent pointed to San Diego State upsetting Nevada-Las Vegas in the Mountain West Conference as one of the first trouble signs for the Wolfpacks at-large chances. He said when he saw Kansas pop up on the ESPNU broadcast, he figured N.C. States tenuous spot on the bubble was popped.
The Wolfpack finished the regular season at 32-22 with a 13-17 ACC record. It won 10 of its final 15 games, one of the criteria for the selection committee, but it went 0-9 against Florida State, Miami and Maryland, ACC teams that made the field. A 4-2 record against Georgia Tech, the ACC champion, and Clemson, an at-large team, wasnt enough to offset the Wolfpacks poor middle third of the season or the close call to UNC last Tuesday.
I think if we win that game we are in, Avent said.
The Tar Heels, who will play in the Florida regional, benefitted from a controversial play at the plate in the one-run game. That was hardly N.C. States only issue, though. The Wolfpack started 14-2 before being swept by Florida State, the No. 5 national seed, during mid-March. The last game of the series was an emotional turning point for the Wolfpack, which made the College World Series last season and entered this one ranked No. 5 by Baseball America.
Ahead 8-7 in the 13th inning, N.C. State came within an out of salvaging the last game, instead losing on a single by Jose Brizuela. The sweep by the Seminoles started a 7-15 stretch by the Wolfpack, which included the April 13 loss at Duke in the deciding game of the series. The Pack led 10-4 in the eighth inning but let Duke score the final seven runs.
Our players will always point to that Florida State game, Avent said. That may have turned the season around the wrong way. There were so many games.
Before the season, the Wolfpack talked openly about getting back to the CWS in Omaha, Neb. and winning the schools first national title in any sport since 1983. Avent even promised a parade in July.
The coach said he didnt regret those comments or the boasts by his players back in February.
Not at all, Avent said. Theyre true. If we could have gotten in this tournament, I still feel like we could have gone to Omaha. Connecticut and Kentucky proved that in basketball.
With the season over, the Wolfpack will turn its attention to the draft, which will starts June 5. Rodon, who finished the season at 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA, and Turner, who hit .321 and led the team with eight home runs, both are projected to be picked among the top 10 by Baseball America.
They helped take a good program to another level, Avent said. Those guys will long be remembered at N.C. State.