4 NC State Starters Missing from College World Series Semi-Final Due to COVID Protocol

Four North Carolina State starting position players were missing from the team during the College World Series (CWS) semi-final against Vanderbilt Friday due to a COVID-19 protocol.

The baseball game began an hour behind schedule and the NCAA said "health and safety protocols" needed to be completed. The team was left with just 13 players and four of them being pitchers.

The 13 athletes told their coach, Elliott Avent, they wanted to play on when he gave them the option to forfeit in the hopes of the missing team members returning for Saturday's game, Avent told ESPN. He said associate head coach Chris Hart had fallen ill for five or six days but made no mention of COVID-19. On Monday, he said sickness was spreading on the Wolfpack team.

If North Carolina State loses Friday and Saturday, it will prevent the team from making the CWS finals for the first time.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Players of the North Carolina State Wolfpack huddle prior to their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Doak Field on April 26, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Four starting players were missing from Friday's College World Series semi-final against Vanderbilt over a COVID-19 protocol. Lance King/Getty Images

NC State said "several players" had entered the COVID-19 protocol.

Freshman pitcher Garrett Payne, who had six appearances this season, made his first start during the game's opening.

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.

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.

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 earlier 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.

North Carolina State in the Dugout
North Carolina State personnel chat in the dugout during a delay due to COVID-19 safety protocols before their baseball game against Vanderbilt in the College World Series on Friday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Rebecca S. Gratz/AP Photo