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College World Series: COVID-19 protocols delay game, NC State left short-handed against Vanderbilt

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The game between North Carolina State and Vanderbilt at Omaha in the 2021 College World Series was supposed to start at 2 p.m. ET. Instead, the dugouts were essentially empty at that time and the first pitch happened at 3:08 p.m. ET.

According to NCAA, the delay was due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Several players from N.C. State were placed in COVID-19 protocol and will be unavailable for Friday’s game, leaving N.C. State short-handed in a game that could see them advance to the finals.

How short-handed? Well, the Wolfpack had just nine position players and four pitchers available. Check out the difference in the black jersey and white on the lines for the national anthem: 

N.C. State didn’t really use much of its bench during the season. They had nine regular hitters and of the five remaining bench players, none had more than 29 at-bats. Of those nine regulars, Tyler McDonough, Terrell Tatum, Jose Torres and J.T. Jarrett were out for the game, leaving backups at first base, second base, third base and designated hitter. Starting pitcher Garrett Payne had only worked 8 2/3 innings all season prior to this game. 

To make matters even tougher, Vanderbilt is starting likely top-five draft pick Kumar Rocker on the mound. 

The good news for N.C. State is that they’ve gone 2-0 so far in Omaha while Vanderbilt has already lost a game. This portion of the bracket is double elimination, which means if Vanderbilt wins, N.C. State can still come back and play again on Saturday in a winner-take-all advancement game to move to the finals.

If N.C. State can pull off the huge upset and win Friday, it will advance to the national championship series, beginning on Monday against the winner of the bottom of the bracket (Texas or Mississippi State).

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