UNC, NC State head to Omaha for College World Series

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024 11:21PM
UNC, NC State head to Omaha for College World Series
The Tar Heels play Friday against Virginia while the Wolfpack meets Kentucky on Saturday.

OMAHA, Neb. (WTVD) -- The College World Series this year will pit the ACC against the SEC and two of the teams representing the Atlantic Coast Conference are UNC and NC State.

The Tar Heels punched their ticket by beating West Virginia. The Wolfpack were able to beat Georgia at their place to get their ticket to Omaha.

Carolina will play Virginia on Friday at 2 p.m. State will play Kentucky on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Heels left from Chapel Hill on Tuesday afternoon. The Pack returned from Athens, Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.

UNC fans gather to see team off to Omaha

In Chapel Hill, UNC fans gathered to wish the Tar Heels well as they left for Omaha.

"Just for the team to feel supported and loved, and even though it's summer and a lot of students aren't on-campus, that there are people who are still excited at the achievement of going to the College World Series," said UNC alum Lindsey Ware.

"They got such a huge winning margin here in this stadium. I hope they have the same luck in Omaha," added season-ticket holder Neil Hayes, referencing their success at home.

Crowd welcomes home Pack 9

In Raleigh, Wolfpack Nation lined up outside Dail Park to welcome back NC State after beating Georgia Monday night.

"They fought really hard and they deserve our support," said fan Grayson Brand.

It will be a short stay in Raleigh, as NC State will leave for Omaha on Wednesday morning.

"We're going to get one night in our bed and then we're going to hop on a plane and get Omaha. But I mean, there's not anybody else doing that. So it's tough for something that we're all excited for," said pitcher Logan Whitaker, who was on the bump for the series-clincher.

Whitaker struck out seven over 4.1 innings pitched, departing with a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning

"I've never been scared to face anybody. My fear came from not having the opportunity to compete and having that opportunity to compete gave me some sense of calmness and allowed me to go into that game and give it everything," said Whitaker.

Ultimately, NC State would beat the Bulldogs 8-5, erasing an early 2-0 deficit with a 2-run home run from first baseman Garrett Pennington.

"Georgia was fun, but now it's the big show. So we're focused on that next game and doing everything we can to win that ballgame," said Pennington.

Heels, Pack hope for first-ever national title

Neither program has ever won the College World Series; UNC has been runner-up twice (2006 and 2007) and is making its first trip back to Omaha since 2018.

It's NC State's fourth trip to Omaha, with their last stay in 2021 cut short when they were forced to drop out because of a lack of available players stemming from COVID-19 protocols.

"The feel for the guys that were there and feel that it is now is definitely sweet and especially to get these guys an opportunity to go back and compete," said Whitaker.

NC State became the third program ever to finish ranked in the Top 25 in football, make the men's and women's basketball Final Fours, and College World Series in the same year, joining Texas in 2003 and Louisville in 2013 (in Louisville's case, the NCAA ultimately vacated all wins, including their men's basketball championship, over recruiting violations).

"I haven't seen anything like this my entire life. As a kid, it's a little disappointing, a lot of heartbreak. But, finally making it here is just special. It means a lot to all of us that have really followed it and put a lot into it," said Brand.

All eight teams in the College World Series are from the ACC and SEC, with four from each conference respectively.

"Every group is different. Every team is different. And as a coach, you like it yourself. You want to go back because it's what you do, but it's like you want to get every group there. You want to get this group. There are some seniors that are never coming back. There's some guys that are going to get drafted that aren't coming back. And this team, they seem to want it so bad," said NC State Head Coach Elliott Avent.

The College World Series is a double elimination tournament.

"It's the greatest opportunity on dirt. We're really excited to get out there and do our job," said Pennington.