During the start of the pandemic that has claimed millions of lives worldwide, sports took a pause all around the world. Stadiums were empty, turnstiles were stationary, and there were no sounds of fans cheering as many sports venues looked like modern-day ghost towns.
The 2020 NCAA Baseball Tournament, like many sports, was canceled leaving thousands of student-athletes with the empty feeling of not being able to compete for a championship in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 2021, sports returned with some limitations and procedures as the world gained ground on COVID-19 through mandates and vaccines. Life was slowly but surely returning to a new normal. College Baseball returned knowing that COVID-19 would play a part in the season. Many teams had to either cancel or reschedule games due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Although there were many safety measures in place, not even the safest of environments could escape COVID-19 interrupting plans.
N.C. State Baseball knows this better than any team. The Wolfpack made it all the way to the College World Series and was within one game of playing for its first national championship before COVID-19 ended their championship run.
The Wolfpack were scheduled to play Vanderbilt with the winner facing Mississippi State in the national championship series. Before the excitement of a championship-clinching game, the NCAA called the game due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Wolfpack roster. Vanderbilt advanced to the championship game on forfeit. This news sent shockwaves through the college baseball world with many asking why couldn’t they just wait a couple of days and reschedule the game.
Matt Willadeson shared his disappointment on Twitter along with many other Wolfpack players and fans who were obviously saddened by the news. Mississippi State went on to beat Vanderbilt to win the championship but the question of “what if” remains.
In 2022 N.C. State did not have the dominant season the team desired but the team did have one of the toughest schedules in all of college baseball finishing with a record of 36-21 and a winning record in the ACC, including conference tournament games.
The Wolfpack went into the ACC tournament knowing they needed some big wins to advance to the NCAA baseball tournament. The team did just that with leadership and great playmaking as the Pack advanced to the ACC title game against rival UNC. The Tar Heels came out victorious and after a great run, many believed N.C. State was a sure bid for the NCAA tournament. Many players post-game shared those same feelings and looked forward to playing in the big tourney the following week.
The NCAA selection committee selected 64 teams to compete for a national championship with the ACC getting nine selections. In a complete shock to the whole baseball world again, N.C. State was not selected as one of the teams into the field.
In less than a year the NCAA has not ruled in the favor of the Wolfpack which leaves the question, what does the NCAA have against N.C. State? Did they have a bad experience in Raleigh or something? Is it the howling of the wolves that they fear? The sad part is these student-athletes have put in the work on and off the field over the last three years against all odds only for the NCAA to come in and pour salt in an open wound.