The Wolfpack (44-14) thought they had done enough during the season to earn one of those premier seeds.
Instead, they’re settling for the No. 1 seed in their four-team regional that begins Friday.
Ace Carlos Rodon said Thursday that N.C. State was disappointed only for a little while and that being snubbed “makes me want to play harder.”
The Wolfpack faces fourth-seeded Binghamton (30-23) after second-seeded Mississippi (37-22) takes on third-seeded William & Mary (37-22) on Friday in Game 1 of the double-elimination tournament.
The winner in Raleigh plays the winner of the regional hosted by Oregon, which was awarded the No. 8 national seed coveted by N.C. State, with a spot in the College World Series at stake.
“This team’s good enough to win a national championship. That’s what they expect,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “But there’s a road to travel down to get there, and we know a lot of things happen down that road. We’ve been down that road many times. We’ve broke some hearts and we’ve had our hearts broke a couple of times. But I think we’ll play well.”
N.C. State went 18-10 against the top 50 of the RPI while the Ducks were 6-10 against them.
“As soon as (the television announcers) said it, we got over it,” Rodon said. “They announced it on TV and there’s not much you can do about it. … You don’t control those things. All we can do is compete on the field and see what happens.”
Having a perennial power from the Southeastern Conference in the field certainly got the Wolfpack’s attention.
The Ole Miss and N.C. State programs have a couple of things in common.
Neither has reached the College World Series in a while - the Wolfpack haven’t been there since 1968, and the Rebels’ last trip came four years after that. Both programs have to deal with powerful instate rivals - North Carolina and Mississippi State - that have reached Omaha much more often.
The Rebels are in the tournament for the 11th time in coach Mike Bianco’s 13 seasons.
“I think it’s a big deal knowing what it’s all about and that you can compete and that you were that close from moving on,” Bianco said.
“I think they’ll feel a little more comfortable and confident going into this regional,” he added.
If the seeds hold through the opening two games, the second day could feature one of the most intriguing pitching matchups of the tournament.
Rodon - a lefty who leads the nation with 151 strikeouts, 21 more than second-place Mark Appel of Stanford - will likely face the Rebels’ Bobby Wahl, who is 9-0 with an ERA of 1.99.
Rodon (8-2) and Wahl were teammates last summer on the U.S. national collegiate team.
“It’s an honor just to pitch against a fellow teammate, plus the caliber arm like that, a top arm like that, it should be a fun matchup,” Rodon said.
The Rebels could have a tough time with William & Mary, which has an RPI of 46 and earned its third NCAA berth - and first at-large selection - out of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Bianco will throw Mike Mayers (5-5, 2.98 ERA) at the Tribe, who are one victory shy of a school record and lost to Towson in the championship round of the CAA tournament.
“Certainly, there could be easier three seeds in the country,” Bianco said.
Binghamton won the America East tournament for the second time since 2009 and is in the field for the second time thanks to some timely late-inning play. The Bearcats have outscored their opponents by a combined 89-40 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.