N.C. State’s baseball team has been to the College World Series, and hosted a Super Regional, but it has never been a national seed in the NCAA tournament.
That could change this year. At No. 6 in the RPI, and with six ACC regular-season games left, the Wolfpack (32-14, 13-9 ACC) has a chance to earn a national seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the format was adopted in 1999.
“We see what’s there for us, we just have to finish it,” sophomore rightfielder Brock Deatherage said.
N.C. State can get there but it won’t be easy. The Wolfpack closes the regular season with a three-game ACC series at Louisville, No. 2 in the RPI, and then at home with rival North Carolina, No. 12 in the RPI.
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Then there’s the ACC championship in Durham starting May 24. The eight teams in pool play in the conference championship could potentially all be ranked in the top 20 and half in the top 10 of the RPI.
“We know it will be tough but we’re at a point in the season where we control our own destiny,” junior catcher Andrew Knizner said. “That’s how we want it.”
Sixty-four teams make the NCAA tournament with 16 as regional hosts. The top eight teams are seeded, and considered the national seeds, and have the right to host the Super Regional round.
N.C. State made the College World Series in 2013 but it was not one of the top eight national seeds. It hosted the best-of-3 Super Regional round only after Oregon lost to Rice in the regionals. The Wolfpack beat Rice at Doak Field to advance to Omaha, Neb., for the CWS.
Home field advantage has historically been important to coach Elliott Avent’s teams in the postseason. The Wolfpack has advanced in regional play four times since the format was adopted and each time N.C. State was the host team.
The 2013 team was the only one to host a Super Regional and it was the only time of the four appearances that the Wolfpack made it to Omaha.
D1Baseball.com’s latest tournament projection has N.C. State as a regional host but not as a national seed. Aaron Fitt, a national writer for the college baseball website, said the Wolfpack can improve its resume with series wins over Louisville and UNC.
“If they win the last two series, it probably won’t matter what happens in Durham, they’ll be a national seed,” Fitt said. “Split the last two and have a strong ACC tournament and they’ll still have a shot for a national seed.”
We can’t control how the tournament is picked or where we are seeded. What we can control is how we play and the more we win, the better our chances.
N.C. State catcher Andrew Knizner
The key, Fitt said, was closing better than Florida State. The Seminoles (32-15, 14-6 ACC) are behind N.C. State in the RPI (No. 14) but ahead of them in the ACC standings.
D1Baseball projects Miami Louisville, FSU to be national seeds.
N.C. State has more wins vs. the RPI top 50, 15 to FSU’s nine, but the Noles have the head-to-head advantage. FSU beat N.C. State 8-5 at home on March 25. The last two games of the series were canceled because of the weather.
“We can’t control how the tournament is picked or where we are seeded,” Knizner said. “What we can control is how we play and the more we win, the better our chances.”
Louisville has dropped three series (Miami, FSU, Boston College) in conference play but all were on the road. The Cardinals are 29-1 at home this season and 11-1 in ACC play. Since joining the league, Louisville has won 24 of 27 home games with ACC opponents.
Deatherage noted the task in front of the Wolfpack, but was undeterred.
“We’re in a good situation,” Deatherage said. “We know if we finish strong we can get a national seed.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938 or @jwgiglio