NC State enters its third straight NCAA Baseball Championship and 15th in 20 seasons Friday when the third-seeded Wolfpack takes on second-seed Indiana at Cliff Hagan Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. in the second game of the Lexington Regional.
Host team Kentucky squares off versus Ohio at 2 p.m. in the regional opener.
The Wolfpack enters the tournament at 34-23 overall. After a sweep at Boston College left NC State at 20-20 overall and 8-13 in the ACC the Pack rebounded to win 14 of its last 17 to secure its place in postseason play.
Johnny Piedmonte (7-0, 1.87 ERA) will start on the mound for NC State against Indiana.
The Hoosiers enter the fray with a 33-22-2 record. Indiana reached the 2013 College World Series, as did NC State. The teams actually stayed in the same hotel in Omaha four seasons ago but Friday’s clash will be the first time they face each other in postseason play.
“Everybody is here for a reason and everybody brings something to the table,” Avent said. “You have to play well for three or four days and can’t take many plays off.”
Piedmonte leads the ACC in ERA and junior shortstop Joe Dunand was named an All-American Thursday by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. He leads the Wolfpack in home runs (16) and runs batted in (47).
Over the course of the season NC State has used its depth to contend in the rugged Atlantic Division. In postseason play, the Pack will look for more character from its stalwarts in the attempt to return to the Super Regionals for the first time in four years.
"You don't need a lot of depth right now, you need quality,” Avent said. “Depth is what you needed to get here, but now you need quality. Collectively, as a team, we're playing about as well as we've played all year."
NC State is one of five teams in the Atlantic that will appear in the NCAA Baseball Championship but is the only one that is not a regional host. The ACC has five schools overall hosting, with North Carolina -- a team the Wolfpack faced four times this season -- being the other.
The Lexington bracket will be difficult for NC State to navigate through but the team feels that the rigors of conference play, along with a tough nonconference schedule (the Wolfpack played 22 games this season against schools that reached the tournament) has provided the experience needed to compete over the weekend.
“The ACC gives you a lot of confidence that you are playing against the best guys every weekend,” junior Brock Deatherage said. “You can carry that over into the regional because now it is important. You can’t lose any games. You try to win every game and put it all together...and use everything that you have learned throughout the season.”