Happy NCAA return for NC State baseball

There was a little extra pop in the cheer by N.C. State’s players on Monday when they saw their name flash on the television screen in the NCAA baseball tournament bracket.

N.C. State (34-21) will open the tournament against Stony Brook (34-14-1) on Friday in the Fort Worth regional. After missing the tournament last year, the Wolfpack will make its 11th postseason appearance in 13 years.

“It’s where we belong,” senior shortstop Logan Ratledge said. “Last year wasn’t right, it was a weird feeling not making it.”

Texas Christian (43-11) is the top seed in N.C. State’s region, and the No. 7 overall seed in the bracket. The Horned Frogs open at their home field with Sacred Heart (23-30-1) on Friday.

The Wolfpack came on at the end of the season, going 13-3 and reaching the ACC title game to charge into the NCAAs with confidence.

The Wolfpack players watched ESPNU’s broadcast of the bracket being unveiled intently on Monday at Sammy’s near campus. There were a few “oohs” when East Carolina popped up in Miami’s region and a groan when Oregon State landed as the second seed with Dallas Baptist.

There was a cheer when the Wolfpack avoided Florida, too. N.C. State lost a Super Regional at Florida in 2012.

“We just kind of wanted to go somewhere new,” Ratledge said. “TCU is a great spot, it’s a great venue and we’re happy with the draw that we got.”

Not that the draw necessarily matters, sophomore catcher Andrew Knizner said.

“At this point of the year, everybody is good,” Knizner said. “And we’re good, too. We know we can compete with anybody.”

N.C. State beat Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia in pool play to reach the ACC title game. All three made the NCAA tournament.

The Wolfpack dropped the title game 6-2 to Florida State on Sunday. The Seminoles, Miami and Louisville, which won the ACC’s regular season, are all regional hosts.

N.C. State coach Elliott Avent understands the challenge ahead for his streaking team. Stony Brook, champions of the America East, has history of being an upstart in this tournament. The Seawolves reached the College World Series in 2012 and eliminated N.C. State in regional play in 2010 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

TCU has one of the best pitching staffs in the country, featuring closer Riley Ferrell, the Louisville Slugger national player of the year. TCU’s top three starters are a combined 27-6 on the season, including an 11-2 mark for Preston Morrison.

“We know their pitching is unbelievable,” Avent said.

Avent was noncommittal about Friday’s starter. Freshman lefty Brian Brown (7-3) has emerged as the Wolfpack’s ace but Avent wanted to look at the matchups before setting up his tournament rotation.

“We’re not going down to win a game,” Avent said. “We don’t want to go 1-2 or 2-1 or 2-2, we want to win this thing. We have to figure out with our staff what’s the best way to win it.”

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2015 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship (all times Eastern)

Regionals with ACC teams

Champaign Regional hosted by Illinois

#1 *Illinois (47-8-1) vs. #4 Ohio (36-19), 8 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 Notre Dame (36-21) vs. #3 Wright St. (41-15), 1 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Coral Gables Regional hosted by Miami (FL)

#1 *Miami (FL) (44-14) vs. #4 FIU (29-29), 7 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 East Carolina (40-20) vs. #3 Columbia (31-15), 1 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Fort Worth Regional hosted by TCU

#1 *TCU (43-11) vs. #4 Sacred Heart (23-30-1), 7 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 North Carolina St. (34-21) vs. #3 Stony Brook (34-14-1), 2:30 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Fullerton Regional hosted by Cal. St. Fullerton

#1 *Cal St. Fullerton (34-22) vs. #4 Pepperdine (30-27), 10 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 Arizona St. (34-21) vs. #3 Clemson (32-27), 6 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Lake Elsinore, California hosted by UC Santa Barbara

#1 *UC Santa Barbara (40-15-1) vs. #4 San Diego St. (40-21), 10 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 Southern California (37-19) vs. #3 Virginia (34-22), 6 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Louisville Regional hosted by Louisville

#1 *Louisville (43-16) vs. #4 Morehead St. (38-20), 6 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 Bradley (35-19) vs. #3 Michigan (37-23), 2 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida St.

#1 *Florida St. (41-19) vs. #4 Mercer (35-21), 6 p.m., ESPN3/WatchESPN

#2 Col. of Charleston (43-13) vs. #3 Auburn (35-24), Noon, ESPN3/WatchESPN