NC State, Rice ready for super regional series
North Carolina State is getting what it always thought it deserved — a super regional series on its home field.
The Wolfpack felt snubbed when the selection committee gave the eighth and final national seed to Oregon.
But the Ducks are done, and now N.C. State is preparing to host a super regional for the first time against Rice — the team that knocked out Oregon.
Wolfpack ace Carlos Rodon said Thursday that "I guess it fell our way" while coach Elliott Avent says the snub "was never as big a story to our ball club as it was to everybody else."
A College World Series berth is on the line when N.C. State (47-14) faces Rice (44-18) in a three-game series that — weather permitting — begins Friday.
The winner of the Raleigh super regional will play either top overall seed North Carolina or South Carolina in the College World Series opener next week in Omaha, Neb.
"It's why you play, really," said veteran Rice coach Wayne Graham, who has taken seven teams to the CWS. "You play first for a (conference) championship, and we've been able to manage that. But you always want to have a shot at Omaha. It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."
Heavy rains were forecast for Friday as Tropical Storm Andrea was expected to make its way across the Carolinas.
"You let God handle the weather and you be prepared to play when it stops raining," Avent said.
N.C. State is making its second straight super regional appearance and third since 2008. Rice has reached this stage for the 10th time but first since 2009.
"Every baseball game you play your entire life helps prepare you for the next baseball game," Avent said.
Avent says Rodon (9-2) will start the series opener for the Wolfpack. Rodon, a sophomore lefty who has a Division I-best 161 strikeouts, flirted with a no-hitter in his regional appearance before finishing with a two-hit shutout of William & Mary.
But these Owls have been tested.
They beat Stanford ace Mark Appel — a first-round draft pick last year who returned to school — in the opener and was in position to beat North Carolina and ACC pitcher of the year Kent Emanuel two months ago before the Tar Heels eked out a win late on two wild pitches by Rice.
"Any great pitcher that's on can be beaten if you make it hard on him," Graham said. "You've got to foul off that great pitch. You've got to extend at-bats. ... Appel, it wasn't just that he had an off day. We made him have an off day."
Avent hasn't decided who will pitch the rest of the weekend, but he has plenty of options. Ethan Ogburn and Brad Stone were his other starters during N.C. State 3-0 finish at the Raleigh regional in which the Wolfpack allowed just two earned runs.
"If you're going to beat a great pitcher that's having a good day, (wearing him down is) the only way to beat him," Graham said. "And you probably won't beat him. You'll just get him out in the sixth or seventh inning and you may be tied by then and you have to beat the (bullpen), and they've got a great pen. So you've got problems all the way around with North Carolina State."
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at (at)JoedyAP
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.