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NC State 'ready' to head to College World Series

image_6483441 (3)by:Noah Fleischman06/12/24

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Less than 24 hours after NC State got off its charter bus outside Doak Field following its Athens Super Regional victory, the Wolfpack returned to that same spot Wednesday morning to depart for the Men’s College World Series. 

The Pack, which won in three games at Georgia to punch its ticket to Omaha for the second time in four years, is familiar with the confines at Charles Schwab Field with its 2021 team playing three games before being sent home due to COVID-19 protocols. 

For graduate right-hander Logan Whitaker, getting back to the pinnacle of college baseball is a good feeling. He was sidelined for the last trip to the College World Series, but now he has played a crucial role in NC State’s run to Omaha. 

“It’s definitely sweet,” Whitaker said shortly after the team’s arrival from Athens, Ga. “And especially to give these guys the opportunity to go back and compete for what they were competing for before they got stopped. It is something special for me to be able to help get them there.”

While Whitaker was able to start the series-clinching wins in both the Raleigh Regional and the Athens Super Regional, Omaha will mark the end of his collegiate career after six seasons. That, in itself, is a dream come true for the Winston-Salem, N.C., native. 

“It’s something that you manifest, something that I’ve definitely dreamed of doing,” Whitaker said. “Now that it’s coming to fruition it’s definitely something that I’m taking in and trying to savor it a little bit before we get there.”

Though Whitaker has fought his way through injury to get to this moment, graduate first baseman Garrett Pennington worked his way through college baseball’s ranks to reach the mountaintop. 

He began his career at Division II Central Missouri — where he made a D-II College World Series appearance in 2021 — before transferring to Wichita State last season. He had a standout year with the Shockers, which allowed him to parlay that into his final season of eligibility at NC State. 

Now, as his own sendoff, Pennington will be able to play inside the park that most collegiate baseball players dream of taking the field at. 

“I mean, honestly,  it’s a surreal moment for everybody,” Pennington said. “I mean, everybody’s starstruck. … Everything comes all together and it’s just, it’s the greatest opportunity on dirt. We’re really excited to get out there and do our job.”

While it will be a cap on a collegiate career for many on the roster, NC State is going to Omaha with a mission — looking for the Wolfpack’s first national championship in program history. 

NC State, which won its first two games of the 2021 iteration, will look to do the same this time around. The first step? A date with No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. 

Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent, who is in his 28th year at the helm of the squad, watched a couple of the Wildcats’ games during the Lexington Regional two weeks ago. 

“Everybody’s good this time of the year,” Avent said. “They’re very good. They’re one of the teams in the SEC that plays small ball more than the rest of the teams do. They’ve got great team speed.”

As the Wolfpack readies to begin its stay in Omaha, the team is still soaking in the moment. That’s what the next few days are for before NC State’s first game. 

But at the same time, the Pack players are eager to take the field. 

“I’m ready,” Pennington said. “I’m ready to have some fun in Omaha.”

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