Georgia-N.C. State shapes up to be ‘super’ NCAA Tournament matchup (2024)

ATHENS — The seventh-seeded Georgia Bulldogs play host to No. 10 N.C. State in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional matchup that begins at noon Saturday at Foley Field. The event is sold out, though many tickets are available via third-party ticket outlets for extremely inflated prices. They retail for $10 and $15.

The Wolfpack is 36-20 and went 18-11 in ACC play. N.C. State advanced by winning the Raleigh Regional in three games with wins over Bryant College (9-2, South Carolina (6-4) and James Madison (5-3).

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Georgia (42-15) also won the Athens Regional in three games, defeating Army (8-7), North Carolina-Wilmington (11-2) and Georgia Tech (8-6 in 10 innings). The Bulldogs’ 42 wins are the most for the program since the 2019 season, when they went 46-17.

Following are three things to know heading into Game 1:

What about ‘The Pack 9?’

“Pack 9″ is what N.C. State fans call their baseball team, which has played pretty well under coach Elliott Avent. Avent, 68, is the coach with the most wins in Wolfpack history, with 1,034 victories in 27 years at N.C. State and 1,258 overall. Avent has led N.C. State to the NCAA Tournament in 20 of his 27 seasons and 15 of the past 19. The Wolfpack reached the 2021 College World Series, but their appearance was cut short because of too many players failing COVID-19 participation protocols.

Georgia and N.C. State have played one other time, and that was in the 2008 Athens Super Regional. The Bulldogs took two of three, winning the clinching game 17-8 to advance to the CWS. UGA has been tough in Super Regionals. They’re 8-3 and have advanced to the CWS four times.

N.C. State’s 2024 squad is powerful at the top of its lineup. The Pack is led by third baseman Alec Makarewicz, who bats .379 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs and hits third in the lineup. Including No. 2 hitter Garrett Pennington (16-62) and No. 4 Jacob Cozart (16-49), 52 of the Wolfpack’s 89 homers have come from those three spots in the lineup.

Sam Highfill (6-2, 5.35 ERA) is considered N.C. State’s ace pitcher. The 6-3, 204-pound right-hander has started a team-high 15 games this season, with 73 strikeouts in 74 innings, and has lots of postseason experience. Ryan Marohn (4-2, 3.60) and Dominic Fritton (3-5, 6.75) have 10 and 15 starts, respectively. Derrick Smith (7) and Jacob Dudan (6) lead the way in saves.

On the mound

Expect to see Leighton Finley and Kolton Smith start for the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday, in one order or another.

Finley ended the season as Georgia’s No. 1 starter and was on the bump for last weekend’s Athens Regional opener against Army. Finley struggled in that outing, but came back Sunday night against Georgia Tech and earned the save in an extremely high-leverage situation, which included striking out star slugger Drew Burress with the bases loaded.

Smith started Saturday’s game against UNC-Wilmington. While he didn’t get the win and struggled some with his control, he continued his effective work in the second half of the season. Smith leads the Bulldogs with a 9-2 record and has 99 recorded strikeouts in 65-1/3 innings.

Coach Wes Johnson confirmed on his radio show Thursday that left-hander Charlie Goldstein won’t be available this weekend. A senior and former No. 1 starter, Goldstein tried to make a comeback from an early-May arm injury in the late innings against Tech on Sunday, but had to leave after appearing to aggravate the injury.

That leaves the Bulldogs with a dearth of left-handed pitching, including Zach Harris (5-1, 6.69) and Christian Mracna (4-2, 5.32). They’ll have to face a lefty-heavy N.C. State lineup with a bunch of righties.

Bulldogs’ bombers

This just in, but Georgia can hit. Like, for power.

Charlie Condon might be the best player in college baseball. In fact, he was named a finalist this week for the Golden Spikes Award, which is the Heisman Trophy of college baseball. A 6-foot-6, 220-pound junior from Marietta, Condon leads Division I in home runs (36), batting average (.445) and slugging percentage (1.036). Meanwhile, he seems to have settled in at third base, where he has made some fantastic plays all season. Condon also has played all three outfield positions and first base.

Condon has been so good this season that he hit .500 in the Athens Regional and wasn’t even named MVP. That honor went to teammate Corey Collins, who is hitting .361 and leads Division I with a .583 on-base percentage.

Collins is one six Bulldogs who have hit double-figures home runs. Georgia has hit 145 as a team, which ranks third nationally. Their round-trippers are spread throughout the order, including 17 by No. 9 hitter Kolby Branch.

Collins has 19 homers, second baseman Slate Alford 16, outfielder Dylan Goldstein 12 and freshman outfielder Tre Phelps 10. The Bulldogs average 9.3 runs per game and are hitting .305 as a team.

Georgia-N.C. State shapes up to be ‘super’ NCAA Tournament matchup (2024)
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