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NC State Baseball

NC State Baseball CWS Timeline with One REALLY Big Question

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Sunday afternoon, Kendall Rogers at D1 Baseball released an article describing the timeline of events for State at the CWS. Specifically, the situations in testing that lead to their removal. Between the NCAA and NC State sources, he spent “a total of two and a half hours” crosschecking everything. It was a great insight into what happened, but left a ginormous question…Players repeatedly tested negative but still couldn’t play?

Before going further…You can follow Kendall Roger here or read more about college baseball here at D1 Baseball. All italicized writing is from Kendall Rogers/D1 Baseball.

Testing Protocols

NCAA tests unvaccinated players the day before each game, which ultimately comes out to about every other day. The protocol is “simple”.

A player/coach/travel party member will take an antigen test, which has a higher false positive/negative rate than a more conclusive PCR test. If that person tests positive on an antigen test, the NCAA sends that person to take a more confirmatory PCR test. If that PCR test is positive as well, they are not cleared, and the individual then enters what the NCAA dubs ‘blue protocol’. Blue protocol means they are not clear to participate, and they immediately go into isolation, and thus contact tracing begins.

In short…There is a quick test, that if positive, leads to a more in-depth/accurate test. Players need to obviously pass both.

It should be also noted, that if officials deem that there could be an outbreak amongst a team, all players/staff/travel party could be forced to test. That’ll come into effect shortly…

 

Issues from the Beginning

State had all negatives when they arrived in Omaha and when testing was done Sunday, before Game 1 versus Vanderbilt. But, Avent announced in the postgame conference (after beating Vandy 1-0) that a few folks had a “bug.” In hindsight, probably not the best to bring something like that up, regardless if you think a player(s) may have cold or flu, because shortly after…

The NCAA said they found out later Monday that one of the players who had the ‘bug’ had a roommate removed at some point on Sunday, which created some concern inside the NCAA.

So because of it seeming a little weird State is adjusting rooms and announcing players are sick…NCAA decided to test again.

The player that Avent said had a ‘bug’ on Monday, June 21, tested positive in an antigen and PCR test on Tuesday, which deemed him ‘not clear to participate’, and thus was directed to isolate. The roommate of the individual, who was in direct contact, was then directed to quarantine, according to the NCAA. The NCAA later found out that the first individual was symptomatic prior to Monday’s game, which Avent alluded to in his press conference. Avent did not know at the time it was COVID-19, however, just to make that perfectly clear. Avent, assistant coach Chris Hart and others also were tested, and were COVID-19 negative, NC State sources told D1Baseball. 

This would lineup with the rumors we were hearing that Jarrett was positive and the roommate (Justice) was in direct contact and moved.

Between Tuesday and Friday, June 25, NC State attempted to have the roommate of the first individual tested each day to potentially test out and be able to pitch. That request was not granted; though, the individual wound up testing positive later in the week anyway.

Symptoms right off the plane, first positive test by Tuesday. State is officially under the microscope of the NCAA.

Friday’s Shitshow

The individual who was in close contact with the COVID positive player was tested in hopes that he would test negative and could come out of quarantine ‘sooner, and perhaps be able to play’. However, that player tested positive for COVID-19. He was then deemed out of action. The same morning, NC State discovered two more players had shown symptoms consistent with COVID-19, so were proactive and sent them over to the Marriott for further testing. Those results arrived 90 minutes before the Vanderbilt game — both members of the traveling party were positive for COVID-19.

Here is where things start to spiral. In an effort to possibly get back a player, State pushes hard for retests and sure enough, it’s positive. Then State officials are good folks and say that two more players aren’t feeling a 100%, and they too are positive. If State would have just let it go, would we still be playing now or at least been close to full squad for Friday’s game? Probably. Did State do the right thing morally but trying to seek clarity with potential positive cases?  Yes.

Now that State has four cases, the Championship Medical committee is alarmed. Four members of the team (at this point all unvaccinated) have tested positive.

The NCAA informed NC State that unvaccinated players would be removed from the game and only vaccinated players could play in the game. The NCAA gave NC State the option to either forfeit and try to play Saturday or play on with a limited roster. NC State sources say they proposed to the NCAA to play a doubleheader between the two teams on Saturday instead. That request was denied. 

 

The BIG Question

This is where all the anger and confusion of this whole mess hits hardest. Four players are positive and the NCAA has forced State to play a game with only vaccinated players. In a further attempt to clear more players, State goes through yet another round of testing of all unvaccinated players.

At the start of the game, unvaccinated members of the Pack team were taken to the Marriott and tested. All of those unvaccinated members of the team were negative for COVID-19, including several prominent players on the roster. None of those players were able to return to the ballpark in time to enter the game.

This is HUGE. It’s been confirmed by Reid Johnston’s family and others, that State players tested negative SIX TIMES in Omaha and yet were unable to play. Could the game not have been moved back an hour more? Could the NCAA not have figured out a way to say “13 vaccinated and the XX number of players that continue to test negative can play.”? We are holding player back simply because they didn’t have the time TO WALK BACK TO THE BALLPARK?!?

 

Further Positive Tests and Kicked Out

With NC State having four positive COVID-19 tests, the team reached ‘outbreak’ status, which then caused the NCAA to get all members of the team tested — including the vaccinated members who played in the Friday game against Vandy. Shortly after that point, the results began to trickle in for each player — four players, all vaccinated — had tested positive for COVID-19, with all other players testing negative.

So here we hit the low point of the weekend. State has four vaccinated and four unvaccinated players that have tested positive. Within hours (at 1am in the freaking morning) NCAA committee decides to shut it all down. There was obvious fear that this would continue. The NCAA had to be questioning “Well what happens if 20 guys play tomorrow and they win? What happens that by Tuesday they are back down to 13 guys?” They panicked and State paid the price.

You most certainly could make the argument that negative tests mean you should be able to play. You also could make the argument that whether State at 27, 20 or 12 players, they still would have gone for it.

Instead, State heads back to Raleigh and the entire nation is now Miss State fans.

 

For Clarification

-Avent was torn apart for his statements after the Pack 13 game about vaccinations. Well Avent was vaccinated, thus the stuff about him being the cause of this all is over.

-There has yet to be any proof that Vandy called for retesting. Furthermore, the entire team (although all vaccinated) were tested and all were ‘everyone was cleared and able to play on Monday’ (according to ESPN’s Kris Budden as reported by The Tennessean) . That said, were they being a little sporting wanting to play knowing State was down to 13 but could have gained more back with time, sure.

 

In the end, we understand the process now, but we still have questions on the decisions.

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NC State Baseball

Recapping #13 NC State’s Season Opening Series Win Over VCU

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This past weekend, #13 NC State won 2 out of 3 against VCU, winning their first series of the 2024 season. Let’s breakdown what we saw opening weekend.

Starting Pitching

Two out of three of the Wolfpack’s starters pitched well on opening weekend.

Senior Sam Highfill pitched 5 innings, and gave up only 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 6, picking up his first win of the 2024 season. The 5 walks were less than ideal. Considering the fact that Highfill threw 79 pitches, if he could have eliminated the walks, there’s the chance he could have gone 6 or 7 innings. All things considered, this was a great start to the season for Highfill, who primarily pitched out of the bullpen in 2023. After serving as a Starter in 2021 and 2022, Highfill only started in 6 of the 22 games he pitched in last year, posting an ERA of 4.83. Here’s to hoping his outing this weekend points to a return to form, when he posted a 3.66 ERA in 2021, with a 9-2 record.

True Freshman Ryan Marohn was sensational in his collegiate debut on Sunday, giving up 0 earned runs in 5 innings, while striking out 8. He gave up 2 hits and walked 3. After being drafted in the 20th round of the 2023 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Guardians, Marohn opted to come to NC State. After losing Matt Willadsen to injury, seeing Marohn pitch like this in his first start is extremely encouraging.

Sophomore Dominic Fritton struggled on Saturday, surrendering 6 runs (5 earned) in 4.1 innings pitched, while striking out 4. Fritton only walked 1 batter, which is an encouraging note from his 2024 debut. There is no need to panic. Fritton was fabulous in 2023, posting a 3.59 ERA as a Freshman. He earned First Team Freshman All-American honors by D1Baseball last year, and earned preseason 3rd Team All-American honors this year.

Relief Pitching

Sophomore Shane Van Dam lived up to the hype in his NC State debut on Friday night, closing things out after Highfill left the game. Van Dam picked up the Save, after pitching 4 scoreless innings, striking out 5, while walking 2. The Wolfpack picked up Van Dam in the Transfer Portal from Courtland, which is a Division III school, where he also played Quarterback on the Football team.

Even though Fritton gave up 6 runs (5 earned), it was Senior Logan Whitaker who picked up the Loss, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in 3.2 innings. Whitaker struck out 3, while walking none.

Senior Hollis Fanning, who transferred in from Tennessee this offseason, struggled in his debut on Sunday, giving up 3 hits and 2 earned runs in 1 inning on Sunday in the Wolfpack’s 5-3 win.

Freshman Jaxon Lucas also gave up a run in his 1.2 innings pitched on Sunday. That run came on a home run, which was the only hit he surrendered. He did manage to strike out 3 in his collegiate debut. According to Perfect Game, Lucas was the #8 overall prospect in the state of North Carolina in the 2023 class, and the #117 player nationally.

Freshman Jacob Dudan was lights out opening weekend, giving up 0 runs in 2 appearances (Saturday and Sunday), striking out 2 in 2.1 innings, while only surrendering 1 hit. Dudan picked up the Save on Sunday.

Hitting

The first 5 batters in the Wolfpack lineup were the same in all three games.

  1. SR RF Noah Soles
  2. SO CF Eli Serrano III
  3. SR 1B Garrett Pennington
  4. JR C/DH Jacob Cozart
  5. SR 3B Alec Makarewicz

Junior Shortstop Brandon Butterworth also started in all three games. In two of the games he was in the #9 spot, and he hit out of the #8 spot in 1 game.

Junior Jacob Cozart is hitting .333 coming out of opening weekend, with 3 hits, 1 home run, 2 RBI and 4 runs. His batting average is the highest of any of the 3-game starters. Also, Cozart’s plate discipline was impressive, drawing 5 walks. Cozart was named to a handful of Preseason All-American teams, and is considered a possible 1st round pick this summer.

Soles and Pennington both picked up 4 hits, which is tied for the most on the team. They both boast .308 batting averages after the first 3 games. All 4 of Pennington’s hits were singles, while 2 of Soles’ hits were home runs. Pennington transferred in from Wichita St., where he had 15 bombs last season, so we know he has pop.

Makarawicz, who transferred in from East Carolina, had 3 RBI’s, which was tops on the team this weekend. He had 3 hits of his own, with 2 of them going for extra bases (1 2B & 1 HR).

Freshman Alex Sosa proved it might be hard to keep him out of the lineup this season, despite the fact Jacob Cozart is locked in at Catcher, and hitting cleanup. Sosa caught one game, and was the Designated Hitter in another game. He picked up 3 hits in 7 at bats (.429), collecting 2 RBI’s and 2 walks. Sosa was the #99 overall prospect nationally in the 2023 recruiting class according to Perfect Game, and the #8 Catcher.

Freshman Luke Nixon entered the season with a lot of buzz, but Sophomore Matt Heavner ended up getting the start at 2nd Base in 2 of the 3 games, and capitalized on the opportunity. He picked up 3 hits in 9 at bats (.333), with 2 of them going out of the park. Nixon was solid in his 1 start, going 2 for 3, with 1 RBI and a walk.

Redshirt Freshman Drew Lanphere played in 2 games, starting 1 (DH), and picked up 2 hits in 5 at bats (.400), with 1 RBI, 1 Run and 1 Walk.

The 3 batters who underperformed this weekend were Butterworth, Serrano III, Sophomore Josh Hogue (JUCO Transfer) and Junior Chase Nixon. Butterworth hit .222, while striking out 3 times. Serrano III did pick up 3 hits, but batted .214. There’s no need to worry about Serrano III. He earned a spot on the ACC All-Freshman team last year.

There was a debate on who would be the Wolfpack’s starting Left Fielder this year: Hogue or Nixon. Hogue got the start in 2 of the 3 games on opening weekend. Neither one performed all that well at the plate. Hogue was 2 for 9, but did have 2 RBI’s. Nixon was 0-3.

 

 

 

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NC State Baseball

Elliott Avent Wins 1,000th Game as NC State’s Head Coach

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NC State defeated VCU 5-3 this afternoon, giving Elliott Avent his 1,000th win as the Wolfpack’s Head Coach.

Avent is the 5th active Division I head coach with 1,000 wins at one school, joining Danny Hall (Georgia Tech), Keith Guttin (Missouri State), John Anderson (Minnesota) and Gary Gilmore (Coastal Carolina). If you include inactive coaches, Avent is only the 35th coach in College Baseball history to win 1,000 games at a single school.

Back in 1997, Avent led NC State to a 6-0 win over Charleston Southern for his first victory as the Wolfpack’s head coach. This afternoon, 28 years later, Avent picked up win number 1,000.

Congrats Coach!

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NC State Baseball

NC State Starting Pitcher Matt Willadsen Out Indefinitely With Elbow Injury

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With 9 days until the first game of the 2024 season, NC State’s Baseball team received a devastating blow today, with news breaking that Senior Starting Pitcher Matt Willadsen is out indefinitely with an elbow injury.

Willadsen was the Wolfpack’s Saturday Starter in 2023, leading the team in innings pitched (81) and strikeouts (86). His 3.78 ERA ranked 2nd amongst the Wolfpack’s Starters.

His 45 career starts rank 5th in school history, and his 260 strikeouts rank 9th.

With the extent of the injury unknown at this point, hopefully it isn’t season ending.

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NC State Baseball

USAToday Includes NC State in Their 2024 College Baseball Preseason Top-25

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USAToday has released their 2024 College Baseball Preseason Top-25, and NC State is ranked 16th.

(USAToday)

ACC Teams in the Top-25

1) Wake Forest
9) Clemson
11) UVA
14) Duke
15) UNC
16) NC State

NC State will also play East Carolina (#12) twice and Coastal Carolina (#18) once.

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