NC State’s 10-inning loss to Kentucky on Saturday means that the Wolfpack will have to win 4 games in as many days to advance through the loser’s bracket and qualify for the championship round of the College World Series.

A tough task, to be sure. But it’s not even the most difficult situation faced by an NC State team over the past few months.

Four wins in 4 days?

Piece of cake.

Back in March, Kevin Keatts and his basketball team defied even greater odds by reeling off 5 wins in 5 days on the way to an improbable ACC Tournament title.

Obviously, the circumstances are different. As is the competition State will be facing.

And yet, if there’s anything Elliott Avent and his baseball team can learn from the experience of their basketball compatriots, it’s that you can’t win 4 or 5 games in a row unless you win the 1st one.

That’s why the veteran coach was already looking ahead to Monday’s elimination matchup against Florida almost as soon as Mitchell Daly’s walkoff home run cleared the wall at Charles Schwab Field for a 5-4 Kentucky win.

“(This) just means 2 things,” Avent said. “One more game we’ve got to win. And we’ve got to win on Monday.”

Other than the possibility of replacing right fielder Noah Soles, who left Saturday’s game with a tight hamstring, and the starting pitcher, either sophomore Dominic Fritton or veteran Logan Whitaker, Avent won’t have to make any major adjustments as he prepares his team to bounce back and move forward.

It’s not as if the Wolfpack played poorly against the Wildcats. Or shot themselves in the foot the way ACC rival Florida State did a day earlier against Tennessee.

In fact, they followed a tried-and-true game plan almost to the letter through the 1st 8½ innings.

They got a quality start from graduate right-hander Sam Highfill, who followed up his gem against Vanderbilt in the 2021 CWS with a gritty 7-inning, 114-pitch effort this time around. They got a timely home run from slugger Alec Makarewicz and a late manufactured run that turned the game over to their best reliever to protect a 1-run lead in the 9th.

The bullpen in general and freshman Jacob Duden in particular have been a strength for State since the midway point in the season.

Only this time, Duden wasn’t able to close the deal.

He gave up a tying homer to Kentucky’s Ryan Nicholson leadoff off the inning. Then after Derek Smith helped him wiggle out of further trouble, Daly tagged the Wolfpack’s other relief ace for the game-winner with 2 out in the 10th.

That’s baseball.

If the Wolfpack is faced with a similar situation on Monday, with a 1-run lead and 3 outs to go, there’s no question Avent will handle things the same way.

And like his team’s chances.

“We played very well,” he said of Saturday’s effort. “We played under control, had good at bats. But everything has to be really, really good. You don’t have any margin for error when you get to this final 4 format.”

This isn’t the 1st time this postseason that the Wolfpack has faced a win-or-go-home proposition.

Just last week, they bounced back from a lopsided Super Regional loss to Georgia to beat the Bulldogs a in a deciding Game 3 showdown to earn their trip to Omaha.

Unlike that series, State won’t have to turn right around play again less than 24 hours later.

It will get an extra day to shake off the sting of defeat and regroup while the 4 teams on the other side of the bracket – North Carolina and Tennessee in the winner’s bracket and ACC rivals FSU and Virginia in an elimination game – take center stage on Sunday.

Though there’s something to be said for getting right back up on the bicycle once you fall off, the extra day of preparation might be just what the doctor ordered for the Wolfpack as they prepare for what they hope will be a long climb back through the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

And a duplication of their basketball team’s tournament success.

Not that they’re thinking that far ahead.

Because no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to win 4 games in as many days if you don’t win the first one.

“I think a day off and practice (Sunday) will help kind of clear the minds and refocus,” Highfill said. “We’ve got to be ready for Monday. Like Coach said, it’s another game we’ve got to win.”