(Part 6 of an 8-part College World Series preview)
North Carolina State last played in the College World Series in 1968. Forty-five years and one day later, the Wolfpack (49-14) take on No. 1 seed North Carolina Sunday at 2 p.m. in the first round of the CWS at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Undefeated in NCAA Tournament play, the Wolfpack won a pair of one-run decisions over Rice in the Raleigh Super Regional. After getting past the Owls 4-3 in Game 1, the Wolfpack prevailed in a 5-4, 17-inning Game 2 marathon. Besides being the longest game since the NCAA implemented the Super Regional format in 1999, the contest was interrupted by a 77-minute rain delay.
N.C. State has grown accustomed to lengthy games, having lost a 2-1, 18-inning verdict to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. North Carolina has won two of three meetings against the Wolfpack.
Leadoff batter Trae Turner (.378, 7 HR, 41 RBI) is the Pack's offensive catalyst. Along with batting average, the sophomore shortstop leads the team in slugging (.571), on base percentage (.460), total bases (124), stolen bases (27 in 33 attempts) and runs (65). He has reached base safely in 109 of 116 career games.
Turner and sophomore right fielder Jake Fincher (.327-0-29) are the only N.C. State starters hitting above .300, while sophomore first baseman Tarran Senay (.291-8-58) is the club's top run producer.
Sophomore lefthander Carlos Rodon (9-2, 3.19) is the cornerstone of the pitching staff. Leading the nation with 170 punchouts, Rodon has shouldered the load for 118 1/3 innings, allowing 85 hits and issuing 42 walks. He has thrown the Wolfpack's only two complete games.
N.C. State's bullpen has accounted for 31 of the team's school record-tying 49 wins.
Senior lefthander Grant Sasser (3-0, 1.10, 8 saves) and senior righty Chris Overman (1-1, 0.34, 6 saves) have shared the closer role. In 20 appearances, Overman has held opposing batters to a .103 average over 26 1/3 frames.