RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More than 1,000 N.C. State baseball fans welcomed the team home from Omaha Saturday night after the Wolfpack — on the brink of playing for the College World Series championship — was removed from competition over COVID-19 protocols.
The fans gathered outside Doak Field to greet the team, who flew into RDU around 8:20 p.m. and then took a bus to campus.
The bus arrived back at Doak Field around 9:20 p.m. to loud cheering. The team then took the field with various players and coach Elliott Avent taking turns addressing the enthusiastic crowd through a bullhorn.
The team learned early Saturday that they would be removed from competition in the College World Series.
NC State players and coaches then gathered at home plate in Omaha to take pictures around the CWS logo early Saturday, after the rain-delayed Texas-Mississippi game was completed.
“This is a heartbreaking situation and I’m gutted for everyone involved and for all those that were captivated by the heart and fight of this team,” coach Elliott Avent said. “Our medical staff and our players have been incredible this season with all they’ve done to keep us safe and get us ready to play, day in and day out.”
The Wolfpack overcame starts of 4-9 overall and 1-8 in Atlantic Coast Conference play to win 33 of their last 43 games. They made the 64-team NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 regional seed and beat host Louisiana Tech to win the Ruston Regional. They then went to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and won the best-of-three super regional against No. 1 national seed Arkansas.
Meanwhile, N.C. State director of athletics Boo Corrigan sent out a statement Saturday evening about the ruling from the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee from early Saturday morning.
“We are all heartbroken for our student-athletes and their families, and together as a community whose National Championship hopes abruptly ended during the heart of our ascent to the pinnacle of college baseball,” part of the statement said.
Corrigan said some players on the baseball team had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being previously vaccinated.
He also said that some players decided they would not be vaccinated during the middle of the season — when the vaccine was made available — because of possible side effect.
Here is the statement from Corrigan:
Frustrated, angry, sad, confused…there are so many emotions Wolfpack Nation is feeling right now. We are all heartbroken for our student-athletes and their families, and together as a community whose National Championship hopes abruptly ended during the heart of our ascent to the pinnacle of college baseball. There is no mistaking that COVID-19 reared its ugly head at the absolute worst time.
What transpired over the last 36 hours, and especially since midnight last night, has been hard to comprehend and even much more difficult to accept. Every step of the way we fought exhaustively for our players, coaches and staff and program, and for the opportunity to play for the national championship this team has worked so hard to reach. But at the end of the day, several of our players tested positive for COVID and we were not allowed to continue playing. While we can’t discuss publicly everything that transpired, please know every effort was made to fight for the best interests of our program.
All day today, we have been trying to make sense of this with the NCAA while organizing travel to get our student-athletes, coaches and staff home safely.
A few points to know about this heart-wrenching situation:
NC State’s Athletic Department, coaches, staff and student-athletes have strictly followed the NCAA’s COVID-19 protocols, throughout the season and during the CWS.
Vaccination for our students is a personal decision. The university cannot require vaccines for our students, including our student athletes. Since vaccines were not available until after the start of the season, some of our players decided to wait until the completion of the season in case of side effects. We respect their rights to make personal healthcare decisions.
We have confirmed that a number of our players who tested positive had previously been vaccinated. While rare, we know that breakthrough infections are possible for individuals who have been vaccinated. Fortunately, those who have been vaccinated and still get COVID are at much less risk for serious illness.
Our student-athletes have worked incredibly hard and sacrificed so much to put themselves in the position to keep fighting for a national championship. There are no words that will ease the hurt our team and all of our players, coaches, staff and all of Wolfpack Nation are feeling through all of this.
Again, this is a heartbreaking end to a remarkable season, but in no way diminishes this team’s great accomplishments. Pack13, like our entire baseball program throughout this recent run, inspired us to continue to fight, to stand together and stand proud for our Wolfpack. Let’s proudly stand together to recognize, honor, and show this team the great respect they deserve.