If baseball were football on Friday night, then the Arkansas Razorbacks would have beaten North Carolina State by scoring three touchdowns and allowing a safety. That 21-2 win during the first game of the 2021 NCAA Super Regionals wasn’t enough to get the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks to the College World Series, though. They needed one more win.
The N.C. State Wolfpack prevailed Saturday by one run, setting up a winner-take-all on Sunday. N.C. State then eeked out a one-run win, 3-2, over the Hogs in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Arkansas was the No. 1 team in the country, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, perhaps the most-complete team in the tournament and a prohibitive favorite to make the CWS finals in a couple of weeks. Instead, they’re done for the season and the Wolfpack move on to Omaha this coming weekend.
The series win by N.C. State may perhaps be one of the biggest accomplishments in the school’s athletics history, and that’s saying a lot. Known more as a basketball school and their upset over the University of Houston in the 1983 national championship game in Albuquerque, the Wolfpack baseball team went on the road to the Central Time Zone in back-to-back weeks in hostile territories and beat the nationally-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and then the once-formidable Razorbacks.
N.C. State now advances to the College World Series, where they’ll face No. 9 seed Stanford on Saturday. Stanford went on the road and swept No. 8 Texas Tech this weekend. Awaiting after that winner is likely No. 4 seed Vanderbilt, the defending national champion.
The North Carolina State University baseball team pretty much mirrors the Wolfpack men’s basketball team that won the 1983 NCAA championship. First and foremost, they had no business even being in the tournament, just like that Wolfpack hoops team.
Then, they pulled off an upset. Then, they pulled off an even bigger upset.
The Wolfpack baseball team this postseason is still a long way from matching what the basketball team did in 1983, but they’re becoming a team of destiny that’s already doing the improbable—just like coach Jim Valvano’s team did nearly 40 years ago.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
North Carolina State and Tennessee locked up spots in the College World Series on Sunday
Two days after losing its NCAA super regional opener by 19 runs, Jose Torres hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the ninth inning off SEC pitcher of the year Kevin Kopps and N.C. State beat the Razorbacks, 3-2, in the deciding Game 3.
Tennessee completed a two-game sweep of LSU with a 15-6 win. Virginia beat Dallas Baptist, 4-0, and Notre Dame defeated Mississippi State, 9-1, to force deciding third games Monday.
No. 4 Vanderbilt and No. 9 Stanford were the first teams to claim spots in the CWS, closing out super regional sweeps Saturday.
This marks the 21st straight NCAA Tournament that the No. 1 seed will not win the national title. It’s the eighth time since the tournament went to its current format in 1999 that the top seed hasn’t made it to the CWS.
Arkansas (51-13) had been the consensus No. 1 team in the polls most of the season, and it hadn’t lost a best-of-three series since May 2019.
But N.C. State (35-18), which lost 21-2 on Friday, held down the Razorbacks’ potent offense while winning two straight one-run games in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Two pitchers held the Hogs to four hits in a 6-5 win Saturday, and three pitchers combined to limit them to four hits again Sunday.
Torres homered in all three games for the Wolfpack, who opened 1-8 in Atlantic Coast Conference play and 4-9 overall. They made it to the ACC Tournament final and were a No. 2 regional seed in Ruston, Louisiana, where they swept three games by a combined 30-11.
“They’re a really good group of players and committed to one another,” coach Elliott Avent said. “They’ve been together and lived together four years now, and when you live together, go to class together, study together and do all the social things, you become bonded.
“They believed early on when we were 1-8 that we could rebound, and they stuck with it.”
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made a surprising move when he gave Kopps his first start of the season Sunday. Kopps had worked long, middle and short relief for the Hogs this season and hadn’t allowed a run in 15 1/3 innings in regionals and super regionals.
Kopps allowed Jonny Butler’s two-run homer and six other hits before giving up Torres’ ninth-inning homer with his 118th pitch. Kopps threw 324 pitches in 23 1/3 innings over five appearances in 10 days.
No. 3 national seed Tennessee (50-16) will head to the CWS for the first time since 2005. Tony Vitello has established a strong bond with fans since he was hired four years ago, and the excitement level around his program is unprecedented. Fans who weren’t among the 4,400 inside Lindsay Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, this weekend were invited to a watch party outside the fence.
“I wanted to get this thing to where people were proud of it,” Vitello said. “The crowd here and the people on the street speaks volumes to where it’s at.”
After hitting no home runs in its 4-2 win Saturday, Tennessee continued its late-season power surge. Jake Rucker went deep twice, and the Vols matched their season high with six homers, increasing their NCAA Tournament total to 16 in five games.
Virginia’s Griff McGarry struck out 10 in seven innings and combined with Brandon Neeck and Kyle Whitten on the four-hit shutout in Columbia, South Carolina. The Cavaliers (34-25) scored all their runs in the eighth inning against the Patriots (41-17), with Zack Gelof leading off with a homer and Alex Tappen hitting a three-run homer.
David LaManna’s three-run homer in the fourth inning broke open the game for Notre Dame (34-12). Aidan Tyrell held host Mississippi State (44-16) to one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings.