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NC State’s Logan Whitaker embodies team’s spirit in final outing at College World Series 

image_6483441 (3)by:Noah Fleischman06/17/24


OMAHA, Neb. — NC State right-handed pitcher Logan Whitaker wasn’t sure if or when he’d be used in the College World Series or not. He didn’t pitch the opener against Kentucky and wasn’t the starter against Florida. But when he was needed, the graduate student was more than ready for his shot on college baseball’s biggest stage. 

Why? For one, it could have been his last appearance in an NC State uniform, but it was also his first appearance in Omaha, as he missed the 2021 season with an arm injury. 

And with his chance to cap his redemption story, Whitaker rose to the occasion. 

The Winston-Salem, N.C., native entered the Wolfpack’s elimination game against Florida with NC State trailing by three runs. Whitaker didn’t know how long he’d be on the mound — if it would be three innings or the final seven — but he was prepared for anything. 

“My thought process was to just go one pitch at a time because I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to the nerves and adrenaline,” Whitaker said. “I didn’t have too much of that. I felt pretty confident and ready to go.”

Well, Whitaker was able to cap his collegiate career with a career-best outing on the rubber. He pitched the final seven innings, allowing one run on two hits with three walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts in his last time wearing the Wolfpack’s logo. 

While the game didn’t go the way NC State had planned, a 5-4 Florida win to knock the Wolfpack out of the College World Series, Whitaker’s story of resilience of returning to his after battling arm injuries for three years and an illness that caused him to lose nearly 30 pounds in April, is more than just himself.

Instead, the same could be said for the entire 2024 team.

NC State lost three players to season-ending injuries throughout the season — right-handed pitchers Matt Willadsen and Shane Van Dam to torn UCLs, while outfielder Josh Hogue broke his leg. The Wolfpack also battled illness throughout the year, including freshman designated hitter Alex Sosa’s bout with the flu and mononucleosis in the same month and graduate righty Sam Highfill’s sickness that caused him to miss a start at Louisville. 

Although it was an uphill climb for much of the spring, NC State seemed to grow stronger and stronger through it all. The Wolfpack was held together by its glue — graduate infielders Alec Makarewicz and Garrett Pennington — and NC State found ways to surge into the postseason. That culminated in the program’s fourth College World Series appearance, and its second in a four-year span.

“What this team went through and to get to this point, obviously getting to Omaha and you drop two games, that’s not what you want,” Whitaker said. “But to get to this point, it’s very hard. I could not be prouder of this group of guys. I want people to remember the resiliency, the chemistry and the camaraderie and the way these guys competed every day.”

NC State never quit on itself, rather it embraced former men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano’s iconic quote: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

That became the theme of NC State’s season midway through the year, as the Wolfpack found success in ACC play. The Pack won five ranked ACC series in the regular season, which proved it was more than capable of beating any team in the country. 

The Pack had setbacks, including graduate outfielder Noah Soles sprained ankle that required surgery and he missed a month on the field, but the team bounced back time after time. 

By the time Soles returned to the lineup, NC State was in a groove. He helped the Pack through the postseason, even when his hamstring bothered him from time to time. Soles, like Whitaker, was going to find a way back on the field. 

“I’ve just poured everything into this program,” said Soles, a four-year contributor that was also on the 2021 College World Series team. “I really emptied the tank. Coming back from surgery this year and the hamstring tear last year, I just wanted to be out there and help us win.”

NC State’s resilience showed up on the field, too. The Wolfpack trailed in both College World Series games, but it found ways to claw back and make each a tight score. NC State needed to be walked-off by Kentucky and staved off by Florida to be sent home, but the team was proud of what it was able to do on the diamond. 

“We never give up, we’re always in the fight, no matter what the score is of the game,” Soles said. “No matter what point in the game we are, we’re never down and you can never count us out.”

NC State seemed to always have a way to push through adversity, just like Whitaker did with his injury that most people he consulted thought was going to end his baseball career. Instead, he was able to toe the rubber in key moments for the Wolfpack this postseason, clinching the Raleigh Regional and Athens Super Regional, before he nearly put NC State on his back in Omaha. 

Elliott Avent, NC State’s 28th-year coach, was amazed by his pitcher’s ability to embrace Valvano’s mantra. Whitaker put his mind to getting to the College World Series and he was able to cap his career at Charles Schwab Field. 

“I’ve said this probably at least 50 times this year, and it’s a great lesson for anybody in life, no matter what your situation is,” Avent said. “It doesn’t have to apply to sports. But if a person doesn’t quit on themselves then there’s going to be somebody out there that’s not going to quit on you. That’s what Logan represents.”

But for Whitaker, who joked about coming out of the bullpen one more time to help the Wolfpack in any way he could, this year proved he could move on from college with solace. 

He did everything he could to get to this stage, and he accomplished it. 

“I never gave up,” Whitaker said. “I can walk away from NC State University with all the adversity that I’ve been through and I can take that with me for the rest of my life.”

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