Returning home after its controversial exit from the 2021 College World Series, NC State baseball was greeted by thousands of fans outside Doak Stadium. Fans began gathering outside hours before the team arrived and were eventually allowed into the stadium.
With signs ranging from an NCAA logo in full clown attire to “America’s Team,” fans poured into the Doak to offer their support for the Wolfpack and their displeasure with the NCAA.
After the team arrived at the stadium, head coach Elliott Avent and the players took to the field with Avent addressing the crowd.
“Words cannot express how much this means to us, our staff and our players,” Avent said. “I’ve loved all our teams. I hate to use the word ‘best,’ but I don’t think we’ve ever had a group of players that showed so much heart and character and fought through so many things. To not only bring so much joy to all the Wolfpack fans, but they captured the heart of the whole nation.”
That last part sparked cheers from the many fans in attendance, as the Wolfpack faithful voiced their pride to have made such an impact on a national level. Two of those at Doak were 2020 graduates Grant Jacob and Vance Sawrey, who spoke of their appreciation for the Pack.
“It’s been incredible,” Sawrey said. “The things that our guys have been able to accomplish this year, it’s downright incredible. The teams that we’ve been able to beat, rightly so, when we’re given a chance speaks for itself.”
Earlier in the morning on June 26, the NCAA dropped a 2 a.m. bombshell on Twitter, declaring the final game between NC State and Vanderbilt a no contest. This announcement shocked many NC State fans, including Jacob.
“Came out of nowhere, I felt like,” Jacob said. “Super surprised. I thought we would just play out the second game [of the weekend].”
Given that a Pack squad of 13 players took Vanderbilt down to the wire in a 3-1 loss on the day prior to the announcement, some were confused and even blindsided by the no-contest decision. NC State was just one win away from the College World Series finals and expected to face an ace it had already beaten once in Jack Leiter.
“We were in the driver’s seat and kind of just got our feet swept out from under us,” Sawrey said. “We really thought we had it.”
When the team touched down in Raleigh, a multitude of fans made their way to Doak to welcome the Wolfpack home. Given the season that State had, some felt that the homecoming was well deserved.
“I think the guys needed our support,” Sawrey said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that we’re left to our own devices. We can’t really do anything. It’s out of our control, unfortunately. The least we can do is support our guys.”
The players were thankful for the fans’ support, including sophomore third baseman Vojtech Mensik, who came to NC State from the Czech Republic.
“I just wanted to say thank you guys,” Mensik said. “Coming from another country, I feel as much pride over the Wolfpack as anybody here.”
Junior right-handed pitcher Reid Johnston was also appreciative of the outpouring of support at Doak.
“I wanted to say thank y’all for coming out,” Johnston said. “This means more to us than y’all will ever know. This is why y’all are the best damn fans in the country right here.”
Avent gave some final remarks to close the ceremony by reciprocating the support that the team received from NC State fans all season.
“Another thing that will never be forgotten is tonight, … and this memory will be etched in our minds forever, is the appreciation and the respect and the passion of the great Wolfpack fans,” Avent said.
With the collegiate baseball season coming to a close, many Wolfpack fans will soon turn their attention to the upcoming football season, but the story of the 2021 NC State baseball team will live on for years in the memories of all who witnessed what the Pack was able to accomplish.