It’s not that Dave Boyer, an outfielder on NC State’s 1968 College World Series squad, doesn’t want to talk about the Wolfpack’s 5-4 victory over Rice Sunday night that propelled the team to Omaha.
It’s that he almost can’t. “I’m still hoarse from last night,” Boyer says, laughing. “I was happy for [the team]. I thought they had the team that could make it to the College World Series.”
Boyer is a member of the only NC State team to have ever made it to a College World Series, that is until Sunday. He and other members from that 1968 team were at Sunday’s game to ensure that the 2013 club joined them in the NC State history books. It’s a relationship that head coach Elliott Avent started to cultivate a couple of years ago and has continued this season, asking some of that team’s standouts to come back and address this team.
“Coach Avent had asked Mike Caldwell [a pitcher on the 1968 team] and I to speak to these kids early on,” says Chris Cammack, who played third base in 1968 and was the 1969 ACC Player of the Year. “And we did. We told them that we were going to adopt them as the only team we’ve ever adopted. We told them if they made Omaha [the annual home to the College World Series], we’d be there.”
And with the Wolfpack scoring three runs to tie the game up in the ninth inning on Sunday and going ahead in the 17th, it seems the team particularly heeded the advice of Caldwell, who earlier this season told the players about an old saying in baseball. “They say to play nine full innings,” he says of his message. “Anything can happen if you play hard from the beginning to the end. They never quit.”
Freddie Combs, who was an outfielder in 1968 and also played football for the Wolfpack, says that it was special to be at the game and to watch the 2013 club repeat what his did 45 years ago. He says that each player on this year’s team had a piece of tape above his locker this season reading “1968.” That tape got ripped down after Sunday’s victory.
And he says that that this squad is not all that different from the one that went to Omaha in 1968 as the only unranked team in the College World Series that year.
“They don’t hit a lot of home runs,” he says. “We didn’t hit a lot of home runs. I think we hit twelve all year. It was a similar team in that we had speed and had to manufacture runs. They’ve got speed and it shows.”
As far as prognostication, Combs says there’s no reason to believe the team Avent’s taking to Omaha this week can’t win NC State’s first national championship in baseball. “I think it’s wide open as of right now. We have as good a chance as anybody.”