A key NC State player will not be available for the Wolfpack’s push toward its first ever College World Series title and another has been placed in quarantine while the school and the NCAA are scrambling to assess others on the team, delaying the start of Game 11 between NC State and Vanderbilt.
Starting second baseman JT Jarrett and bullpen ace Evan Justice are out for the semifinal matchup against the Commodores due to COVID-19-related issues. A source described Jarrett as “no longer with the team” while Justice was still in Omaha but placed in quarantine. ESPN first learned of a positive test concerning Jarrett on Friday morning. Both players were absent as the team arrived at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park for pregame warmups and took to the field around 1 p.m. ET ahead of the first pitch, originally scheduled for one hour later.
NC State would not release names, but did issue this statement: “An undisclosed number of players from the team have been put into COVID-19 protocol and will be unavailable for today’s game. NC State, the NCAA and appropriate parties are working together to monitor the situation.”
Jarrett has started all 55 of the Wolfpack’s games this season, hitting .251 and committing only two errors all year. Justice has been an innings-eating bullpen ironman, earning All-ACC pitching honors with a 5-2 record and 13 saves. He had already earned a pair of saves in this College World Series, closing out the team’s two wins against Stanford and Vanderbilt.
As the first pitch of CWS Game 11 approached, NC State and the NCAA were still working to determine if more Wolfpack players or the roster of their CWS opponents might be affected via contact tracing. Vanderbilt is the only remaining NC State opponent in Omaha. Their other opponent, Stanford, was eliminated on Wednesday night.
This is the first COVID-related issue at the College World Series, which began one week ago when teams participated in their first Omaha-based workouts. Throughout the College World Series, teams have not interacted at all off the field in any official capacity, media sessions have been held via Zoom and team practices have been closed, though general social interactions have been relatively unrestricted as per the local rules in Omaha and Nebraska. Attendance for the games has been full capacity through the College World Series.
The overwhelming majority of the 2021 college baseball season was played without significant pandemic-related issues, even as crowd sizes were increased, many states began lifting mask and social distancing mandates, and NCAA basketball, volleyball and men’s ice hockey postseason tournaments were forced to send teams home and/or alter their schedules.
The 2020 college baseball season was cancelled in mid-March as the pandemic swept the nation and the College World Series was shuttered for the first time since it started in 1947.