What to know about N.C. State and Kentucky’s other College World Series bracket opponents

Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione planned to give his players until midnight Monday night to celebrate the program’s first College World Series berth.

For a program like Kentucky reaching Omaha for the first time brings the risk of complacency once the Wildcats arrive on their sport’s biggest stage, but Mingione and company promised in the immediate aftermath of the super-regional win against Oregon State they are not satisfied with simply making it to the College World Series.

If that promise holds true the focus must quickly shift to the challenge ahead.

No. 2 seed Kentucky’s next task is to advance through the double-elimination portion of the event in a four-team bracket also featuring No. 10 seed N.C. State, No. 3 seed Texas A&M and unseeded Florida. The Wildcats open Saturday versus N.C. State.

The good news for Kentucky is there is familiarity with the SEC teams in the bracket. Kentucky has already faced Florida this season.

As Mingione and his staff scour film for any advantage against the upcoming competition, here is what you need to know about the other three teams in Kentucky’s bracket.

N.C. State

NCAA Tournament seed: 10.

Record: 38-21 (18-11 ACC).

How it got here: N.C. State swept a regional in its home park with wins against Bryant, South Carolina and James Madison. The Wolfpack took two of three games in a super regional at No. 7 seed Georgia, winning the third game 8-5 on Monday.

Players to watch: ranks catcher Jacob Cozart (19 home runs) as a top-50 2024 MLB draft prospect. Third baseman Alec Makarewicz leads the team with 22 home runs and a .380 batting average. He hit two home runs in the third game of the super regional. First baseman Garrett Pennington is hitting .348 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Left-handed pitcher Ryan Marohn (4-2, 3.97) is the only N.C. State pitcher with more than three innings and an ERA under 4.00 this season. Right-handed pitcher Sam Highfill (7-2, 5.06) won the first game of the super regional by surrendering one run in six innings with two strikeouts and three walks. Right-handed reliever Derrick Smith (3-1, 4.50) allowed one run over the final three innings of the super regional to earn his eighth save. Smith has 41 strikeouts and nine walks in 28 innings. He has surrendered just two earned runs in his last 14 appearances.

Other notes: N.C. State is playing in its fourth College World Series. Two of those appearances (2013, 2021) have come in the current tournament format. … N.C. State’s 6.09 team ERA ranks 154th nationally. … Kentucky rallied from the loser’s bracket in its 2017 NCAA Tournament regional by defeating N.C. State twice to reach the first super regional in program history.

NC State’s Alec Makarewicz celebrates after hitting a home run during the third game of a super regional against Georgia in Athens. The Wolfpack won 8-5.
NC State’s Alec Makarewicz celebrates after hitting a home run during the third game of a super regional against Georgia in Athens. The Wolfpack won 8-5.

Texas A&M

NCAA Tournament seed: 3.

Record: 49-13 (19-11 SEC).

How it got here: Texas A&M swept its regional with wins against Grambling, Texas and Louisiana and swept its super regional against Oregon by scoring at least 10 runs in both games.

Players to watch: The Aggies lost top-10 draft prospect Braden Montgomery to a season-ending ankle injury in the super-regional round but still boast plenty of talent in the lineup. Sophomore right fielder Jace LaViolette leads the team and is tied for sixth nationally with 28 home runs. Freshman third baseman Gavin Grahovac has 22 home runs.

Ace Ryan Prager might be one of the best pitchers in Omaha with a 8-1 record, 3.10 ERA, 114 strikeouts and 19 walks in 87 innings. ranks him as the No. 59 prospect in the 2024 MLB draft class. Top-100 draft prospect Chris Cortez can hit 100 mph in multi-inning stints out of the Aggies’ bullpen. Sophomore lefty Shane Sdao (5-1, 2.96) started game two of the super regional but was removed after just 11 pitches with an arm injury.

Other notes: Texas A&M is looking for its first national championship but is playing in the College World Series for the eighth time in program history. … The Aggies have reached the College World Series twice in coach Jim Schlossnagle’s three seasons at the helm. … Kentucky relief ace Robert Hogan began his career at Texas A&M but pitched just 26 1/3 innings across two seasons in College Station.


NCAA Tournament seed: N/A.

Record: 34-28 (13-17 SEC).

How it got here: As the No. 3 seed in the Stillwater regional, Florida rallied from the loser’s bracket to advance by defeating Nebraska and No. 16 overall seed Oklahoma State twice. The Gators then swept their super regional at No. 3 overall seed Clemson, advancing with an 11-10, 13-inning win in game two.

Players to watch: Two-way star Jac Caglianone is the top-ranked 2024 MLB draft prospect (No. 3 according to left in the tournament. He ranks second nationally with 33 home runs and is 5-2 with a 4.71 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 48 walks in 72 2/3 innings on the mound. Caglianone was 5-for-9 with one home run, six runs scored and eight walks in Florida’s regular-season series against Kentucky. After the series finale, Caglianone took issue with Kentucky’s dugout antics in an interview.

Shortstop Colby Shelton ranks second on the team with 20 home runs. Shelton and catcher Luke Heyman each hit two home runs against Kentucky in the regular season. Bulk reliever Brandon Neely (3-4, 5.45) was Florida’s most effective pitcher in the super regional with four scoreless innings in the opener. He has 93 strikeouts and 27 walks in 71 innings.

Other notes: Florida is the only team in the pod with a national championship (2017) and is playing in the College World Series for the 14th time. … Florida reached the championship series last season, falling to national champion LSU in three games. … Kentucky won two of three games at Florida in the regular season, but both wins came in extra innings.

College World Series

Friday through June 24 at Omaha, Nebraska.


Game 1: North Carolina vs. Virginia, 2 p.m. (ESPN).

Game 2: Tennessee vs. Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN).


Game 3: Kentucky vs. N.C. State, 2 p.m. (ESPN).

Game 4: Texas A&M vs. Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN).


Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2 p.m. (ESPN).

Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN).


Game 7: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m. (ESPN).

Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN).

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