NC State is headed to the College World Series after beating out No. 1 national seed Arkansas on Sunday.
Two days after losing its NCAA super regional opener by 19 runs, the Wolfpack got a tiebreaking home run in the top of the ninth inning by Jose Torres off SEC Pitcher of the Year Kevin Kopps to give NC State a 3-2 win in the deciding Game 3.
This marks the 21st straight NCAA Tournament that the No. 1 seed will not win the national title. It’s the eighth time since the tournament went to its current format in 1999 that the top seed hasn’t made it to the CWS.
Arkansas (51-13) had been the consensus No. 1 team in the polls most of the season, and it hadn’t lost a best-of-three series since May 2019.
But NC State (35-18), which lost 21-2 on Friday, held down the Razorbacks’ potent offense while winning two straight one-run games in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Two pitchers held the Hogs to four hits in a 6-5 win Saturday, and three pitchers combined to limit them to four hits again Sunday.
Torres homered in all three games for the Wolfpack, who opened 1-8 in Atlantic Coast Conference play and 4-9 overall. They made it to the ACC Tournament final and were a No. 2 regional seed in Ruston, Louisiana, where they swept three games by a combined 30-11.
“They’re a really good group of players and committed to one another,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said. “They’ve been together and lived together four years now, and when you live together, go to class together, study together and do all the social things, you become bonded.
“They believed early on when we were 1-8 that we could rebound, and they stuck with it.”
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made a surprising move when he gave Kopps his first start of the season Sunday. Kopps had worked long, middle and short relief for the Hogs this season and hadn’t allowed a run in 15 1/3 innings in regionals and super regionals.
Kopps allowed Jonny Butler’s two-run homer and six other hits before giving up Torres’ ninth-inning homer with his 118th pitch. Kopps threw 324 pitches in 23 1/3 innings over five appearances in 10 days.