After Rice put away nationally-seeded Oregon, the super regional site has swung to Raleigh, where N.C. State will be looking to get back to Omaha for the first time in over 40 years. Here's what you need to know to get ready for the matchup.
1 N.C. State (47-14) vs. 2 Rice (44-18)
All times Eastern
Friday: 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday: 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday (if necessary): 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Rice may play a fringe role in the other big-time college sports, but it's no mid-major when it comes to baseball. This year's trip to Raleigh marks the Owls' 10th visit to the super regionals since 1999, only one behind perennial juggernaut South Carolina. They've advanced to Omaha six times during that span, capturing the national championship in 2003.
This is N.C. State's second straight trip to the supers, having fallen to Florida last season in Gainesville. It's the Wolfpack's fourth total appearance, but first time ever serving as a host. If they can ride the home field advantage into the next round, they'll find themselves in Omaha for the first time since 1968.
Path to the supers
N.C. State had a rather easy road into the second round, never having to face the No. 2 seed in its regional, Ole Miss. The 'Pack dispatched Binghamton, 4-1, last Friday, then knocked down William & Mary on consecutive days to finish the weekend undefeated. With the elimination of nationally-seeded Oregon, whose spot many believed should have gone to N.C. State, the Wolfpack earn a degree of karmic justice.
Speaking of Oregon's elimination, that came at the hands of the Owls, who took 2-of-3 from the Ducks to become the only team in the tournament to advance past a national seed. They beat San Francisco on Day 1 before winning the first matchup with Oregon, 1-0. They then bounced back from an 11-0 trouncing at the hands of the Ducks on Sunday to deliver the 11-4 knockout blow on Monday.
The Wolfpack batted .293 during the regional round, up slightly from its .281 season average. They were led by Terran Senay, who hammered in five RBI during Sunday's 9-2 win over William & Mary. On the season, sophomores Trea Turner and Jake Fincher are both hitting above .320, with Turner pacing the team in RBI (41) and slugging percentage (.578).
All-C-USA first-teamer Michael Ratterree and his nine homers power a Rice squad that led their conference in hits and runs scored during the regular season. Christian Stringer hit .357 over the weekend, including a 2-for-4 outing in the series-clinching win over Oregon on Monday. Third baseman Shane Hoelscher is leading the Owls with four RBI in the tourney and knocked in the winning run in their first win over the Ducks.
Rice has four pitchers on its roster with at least seven wins and an ERA below 3. One of those is Austin Kubitza, who has struck out 126 opponents on the season and looks to be an early-round pick in Thursday's MLB Draft. Closer Zech Lemond, who boasts 14 saves on the season, actually started Monday's finale against Oregon, fanning seven through 6⅔ en route to his seventh win.
Carlos Rodon will be Rice's biggest test if the Owls hope to get past the Wolfpack. He's won eight straight starts and has recorded 56 strikeouts and a 1.46 ERA over his last five outings. He dominated William & Mary last Saturday, giving up only two hits and striking out 10 during a shutout performance. Freshman Brad Stone also seems to be coming on, holding the Tribe scoreless until being relieved in the sixth inning on Sunday.
Rice has a strong history of success during the NCAA tournament and won 18 games on the road this year. That said, hosting teams went 14-of-16 in the first round, and N.C. State will be fired up to host its first-ever super regional. Rodon shuts the Owls down in his start and the Wolfpack offense sparks a win in Game 2.