Wolfpack's run invokes memories of Cardiac Pack
Next ACC basketball season it will be 30 years since the NC State "Cardiac Pack" shocked the country and defeated the "Phi Slamma Jamma" Houston Cougars to win the NCAA Championship.
That story is being revisited by the Wolfpack baseball team.
NC State just completed an improbable NCAA regional run played in their home park that saw the Wolfpack evoke memories of the 1983 men's basketball national championship team.
Following a win over Sacred Heart the Wolfpack suffered a heartbreaking loss to Vanderbilt, blowing an 8-3 lead and losing on a walk-off single.
After a 17-5 win over UNC-Wilmington to stay alive NC State needed to defeat the Commodores twice to win the Raleigh Regional.
In the first game last Sunday, junior second baseman Ryan Bergquist's RBI single in the bottom of the eighth was the game winner in the Wolfpack's 6-5 win.
In Monday's winner-take-all game against Vanderbilt, NC State took the words by the late Jim Valvano to heart. "Never give up."
NC State was down 7-3 heading into the top of the eighth, but an unlikely hero emerged. Junior outfielder Tarran Senay was inserted into the lineup in the bottom of the seventh. Senay was hitting just .213, but coach Elliot Avent knew that Senay could turn the game around with one powerful swing.
The moment arrived when Senay crushed a Philip Pfiefer 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall to cut Vanderbilt's lead to 7-6.
The in the ninth with the bases loaded Senay come through with a two-run single to score the tying and winning runs in a 9-7 victory that sent NC State to the NCAA Super Regionals.
"This team never gives up, it's so fun to play for," Senay said.
"These players did it," Avent said. "They refused to quit. It's one of the things that made us famous here. What the great coach Valvano said, 'Don't give up, don't ever give up.'"
NC State next faces the overall No. 1 seed, Florida, in Gainesville.
The best-of-3 series will feature two of the three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award given annually to college baseball's player of the year.
NC State freshman left-hander Carlos Rodon is the first Wolfpack to be a finalist for the award. Only two pitchers in college baseball remain undefeated with nine or more wins and Rodon is one of them (9-0). Rodon's 132 strikeouts trailed only Duke's Marcus Stroman in the ACC.
On the opposite end will be Florida catcher Mike Zunino, also a Golden Spikes Award finalist. Zunino led the SEC in home runs with 18, doubles (27) and total bases (154).
The Seattle Mariners picked Zunino third overall in the MLB draft this week, the first college player to be selected.
While Florida might be the strongest team in college baseball , NC State might have the strongest will to win.
"Every time you win a game like this (9-7 over Vanderbilt Monday) it makes you a little bit tougher and it makes you believe you can do anything," Avent said. "When you do something like this then nothing scares you quite as much."
If the Wolfpack can advance past the Gators, it would go on to the College World Series for the first time since 1968.