This wasn’t North Carolina State’s night.
Its postseason errorless streak was broken in the first inning.
A second miscue led to North Carolina’s first run.
A call on a close play at the plate didn’t go the Wolfpack’s way in the fourth.
N.C. State couldn’t mount any offense against Tar Heel starter Hobbs Johnson.
Still, the Wolfpack were in the game, trailing 2-0 going into the ill-fated eighth.
“We thought we’d have another comeback where we would win it,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “The eighth kind of just unraveled on us.”
The Wolfpack’s fate was sealed when North Carolina pushed four runs across in the top of the eighth inning. N.C. State’s first College World Series appearance in 45 years later concluded when its hardest-hit ball of the night turned into a game-ending double play in the ninth for a 7-0 loss.
Shut out for the first time all season, the Wolfpack were sent packing by their in-state rival.
Avent rolled the dice Thursday, electing to start ace Carlos Rodon on three days rest.
The sophomore, projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s major league draft, gave N.C. State a chance by going five strong innings after throwing 108 pitches Sunday in a 8-1 win against the Heels.
Rodon’s errant throw to second base on a bunt in the fourth, however, led to the game’s first run. It was the Wolfpack’s second error on a bunt in as many innings after going 47 innings without an error.
The throw by right fielder Jake Fincher beat Brian Holberton to the plate on Michael Russell’s sacrifice fly in the fourth. But the sliding Holberton avoided catcher Brett Austin’s tag to make it 1-0. Austin, Rodon and Avent all visibly disagreed with plate umpire Joe Burleson’s call.
“Obviously, the guy’s hand may have got in,” Avent said. “The ball just beat him so much.”
That pretty much summed up N.C. State’s night — close, but not quite.
The Wolfpack did little against Johnson. They had three hits entering the ninth.
At the end of the day, Avent tipped his cap to the Tar Heel starter and lauded his team’s 50-win season and the foundation for the future it set with its first CWS appearance since 1968.
“We’re not the ’27 Yankees and we’re not the Big Red Machine, but we can hit some fastballs. Tonight, it just wasn’t there,” he said. “We’ve got a proud group of men in there. They’re really proud of their accomplishments.”
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