COVID-19 scare leaves Wolfpack with 13 players for CWS game

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North Carolina State was missing four starting position players and had only 13 available for its College World Series game against Vanderbilt on Friday because of a COVID-19 issue on the team.

The game was delayed an hour after the NCAA said it needed time to complete “health and safety protocols.” NC State said “several players” had entered the COVID-19 protocol.

The Wolfpack opened the game with nine position players and four pitchers available. Freshman pitcher Garrett Payne, who had six appearances this season, made his first start.

Sam Highfill, the starting pitcher in NC State’s 1-0 win over Vanderbilt on Monday, was the first baseman Friday and among four players at the bottom of the batting order who had a combined 27 at-bats and eight starts.

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The regulars in the lineup were Austin Murr, who moved from first to left field; Jonny Butler, who moved from left to center; Luca Tresh at his usual catcher spot; Devonte Brown in his usual spot in right field; and Vojtech Mensik, who moved from third base to shortstop.

Carson Falksken played second in place of J.T. Jarrett, Eddie Eisert was designated hitter instead of Terrell Tatum, and DeAngelo Giles moved into Vojtech’s spot at third.

NC State would have to lose Friday and again Saturday to not reach the CWS finals for the first time.

Coach Elliott Avent told ESPN before the game that he gave his available players the choice of forfeiting the Friday game with the hope of having some players back on Saturday. The 13 players told him they wanted to play.

Avent also said he would pull his team off the field during the game and forfeit if he believed his players were risking injury.

Avent said Monday that an illness was running through the team but made no mention of it possibly being COVID-19. He said associate head coach Chris Hart had been sick for five or six days and that Jarrett and pitcher Cameron Cotter weren’t feeling well.

The pandemic heavily disrupted college sports over the past year and three teams dropped out of an NCAA championship event because of COVID-19: The VCU men’s basketball team, the Michigan men’s ice hockey team and the Rice women’s volleyball team.

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