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Kentucky will open College World Series play against NC State on Saturday

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/10/24

DanielHagerKSR

Kentucky will open College World Series play against NC State on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CT/2:00 p.m. ET.

Saturday will mark the first College World Series game in Kentucky’s program history, while it will be NC State’s first since 2021. The Wolfpack have now made four appearances in the College World Series (1968, 2013, 2021), but have never won a National Championship.

NC State made it to the semifinals in 2021, but had to forfeit the second game due to COVID-19 protocols.

Kentucky is 3-4 all-time against NC State. The two teams last met in 2017, when Kentucky knocked off the Wolfpack 10-5 to win its first Regional in program history.

The bracket is now officially set, and it consists of four SEC teams (Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Florida) and four ACC teams (North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia, NC State). The Cats will have to go through the Wolfpack, Texas A&M, and Florida (Kentucky won series this season) for a potential spot in the College World Series Finals.

Seven of the eight teams are top-16 national seeds for the first time since 2013.

NC State (38-21, 18-11)

NC State held off Georgia 8-5 Monday night to secure its fourth College World Series appearance in program history, its first since 2021.

The Wolfpack took care of business in the Raleigh Regional fairly easily, taking down Bryant, South Carolina, and James Madison for its sixth Regional Championship in program history. They then dominated Georgia 18-1 in the Athens Super Regional opener before falling to the Bulldogs 11-2 in the second game.

In the decisive game three, three hits each (including a home run) from NC State’s Eli Serrano and DH Alex Sosa led the Wolfpack to a CWS clinching 8-5 win in front of a stunned crowd in Athens.

Serrano is just one of five NC State batters with a batting average above .280. They’re led offensively by All-ACC Second Team selection third baseman Alec Makarewicz (.380 BA, 25 doubles, 21 home runs), All-ACC Third Team selection first baseman Garrett Pennington (.347 BA, 25 doubles, 17 home runs), and All-ACC First Team selection catcher Jacob Cozart (.302 BA, 19 home runs, 53 RBI).

Photo via NC State Athletics

The Wolfpack struggled a bit this season pitching wise however, as they sport a 6.11 team ERA (10th in ACC, 156th in NCAA). Left-hander Ryan Marohn (4-2, 3.97 ERA, 59 IP) and right-hander Jacob Dudan (3-2, 4.17 ERA, 45.1 IP) were NC State’s go-to starting pitchers this season.

Right-hander Sam Highfill started the first game of the Super Regional and held Georgia to just four hits and one earned run in six innings. Right-hander Logan Whitaker pitched in the deciding game Monday night, where he struck out seven Bulldogs while allowing just two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. The Pack have gotten much better over the course of the season offensively and pitching wise, as they enter Omaha winners of 18 of their last 23 games.

State sported the third best record in the ACC this season (18-11), but were knocked out of the ACC Tournament in the second game by Duke.

Head coach Elliott Avent is in the midst of his 28th season at NC State, where he’s made the NCAA Tournament in 21 seasons. He however has never won a College World Series.

Kentucky (45-14, 22-8)

Kentucky hasn’t just won in the NCAA Tournament, they’ve dominated the NCAA Tournament so far.

The Cats are 5-0, as they won the Regional in just three games and the Super Regional in two games. Kentucky is just one of four (Florida State, Texas A&M, Virginia) teams in the field of eight to be 5-0 heading into the College World Series.

Six of the 10 SEC teams that have won the College World Series since 1999 started the NCAA Tournament 5-0 (2000 LSU, 2009 LSU, 2010 South Carolina, 2011 South Carolina, 2022 Ole Miss, 2023 LSU).

Kentucky’s pitching has been red-hot heading into Omaha. The Cats have allowed just three earned runs in their last 36 innings, good for an ERA of 0.75. Oregon State totaled just three hits in the Lexington Super Regional, setting the record for least amount of hits in a Super Regional in NCAA Tournament history (East Carolina’s five against Vanderbilt in 2021 was the previous record).

Right-hander Trey Pooser has been lights out for Kentucky since the start of postseason play (SEC Tournament). Pooser has allowed just one earned run in 19 combined innings with 18 strikeouts, good for an ERA of 0.47.

Photo by Aaron Perkins | Kentucky Sports Radio

Pooser’s support system has been out of this world in the NCAA Tournament, as the Wildcat bullpen has given up three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings. They are currently in the midst of a 17 inning scoreless streak, led by right-handers Robert Hogan (2.58 ERA), Ryan Hagenow (1.96 ERA), Cameron O’Brien (3.94 ERA), Johnny Hummel (3.49 ERA), and left-hander Jackson Nove (5.46 ERA).

Kentucky is the seventh SEC team since 1999 to advance to the College World Series while allowing a combined 11 runs or less throughout Regional and Super Regional play. Of the previous six SEC teams to do, only one however went on to win the national title (2011 South Carolina). The Cats will be looking to become the second to leave Omaha with a National Title in the coming weeks.

The Wildcat offense has been firing on all cylinders as well. Led by Mitchell Daly (.421 NCAAT BA), Ryan Nicholson (.368 NCAAT BA), and Nolan McCarthy (.273 NCAAT BA), the Cats are outscoring opponents 34-11 in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky will however need All-SEC selections Ryan Waldschmidt and Nick Lopez to get going at the plate. Waldschmidt, who was 0-7 in the Super Regional, is just 5-20 at the plate in the NCAA Tournament (.250 BA). Lopez has fared even worse, as he’s just 4-22 (.182 BA) since the start of the tournament.

The middle of the lineup, consisting of Daly, Nicholson, and McCarthy, has really carried the offense so far this postseason.

At long last, the Cats are headed to Omaha. Let’s do this.

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2024-06-13