ATHENS — There’s no substitute for experience, or great pitching, and North Carolina State appeared to have both on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 10-national seeded Wolfpack (37-20) shocked host Georgia (42-26) by an 18-1 count in the first game of the best-of-three NCAA Baseball Tournament.

An 11-run second-inning off starter Kolten Smith (9-3) was more than enough for N.C. State, as the the No. 7-national seed Bulldogs managed just four hits and a fifth inning run that made it 13-1 and barely caused a ripple.

RELATED: How North Carolina State shocked Georgia baseball, 18-1

Georgia coach Wes Johnson quipped he had never been a part of an 11-run inning where the pitching didn’t serve up a walk or hit a batter.

The Wolfpack blistered UGA pitching for 20 hits, including five home runs.

“Tip your cap to N.C. State, they had a big inning,” Johnson said. “Here’s the great thing about our game: nothing carries over to tomorrow ,and the game goes back to 0-0. We’ll come out and we’ll be ready to respond.

“This game is not about panicking, it’s about the teams that can flow through adversity and stay the course. We’ll respond.”

The Bulldogs have no choice, as one more loss will end the season and send North Carolina State to its second College World Series in the past four years.

Johnson has led Georgia to a Cinderella season of sorts, taking a team that was picked to finished sixth in the SEC East Division into Super Regional play after surrounding a solid nucleus with 18 transfers and 10 freshman.

Worth noting: only one of the 40 Georgia players listed on Saturday’s roster had played in an NCAA Super Regional game — relief pitcher Brandt Pancer, a transfer from Stanford who hasn’t pitched since facing Florida on May 18.

Johnson knows better than anyone how quickly fortunes can change in baseball.

Johnson was the pitching coach for an LSU team that dropped a 24-4 Game Two decision to Florida in Super Regional action last year before bouncing back for an 18-4 win that sent the Tigers into a College World Series they would win.

Of course, 28th-year North Carolina State coaching legend Elliott Avent understands America’s national pastime, too, having coached up two World Series programs in Raleigh.

The most recent Wolfpack team to reach Omaha, in 2021, stunned a No. 1-ranked Arkansas team on the road after dropping the opener of the Super Regional by a 21-2 count by coming back to beat the heavily-favored Hogs 6-5 and 3-2.

Still, there was a shock factor for the partisan crowd of 3,829 (North Carolina State had a 600-ticket allotment) in Athens, many of whom had witnessed Georgia 32-5 in the cozy confines of Foley Field.

The Bulldogs were also 26-1 against non-conference opponents entering the game, including 3-0 against a good Georgia Tech team that swept North Carolina State in both team’s ACC-opening series in March.

Obviously, a lot can change in two months, and this Wolfpack team grew fangs playing the third-toughest schedule in the nation and battling week-to-week in a tough ACC that produced as many Super Regional teams (4) as the mighty SEC.

One thing that never seems to change in baseball, however, is that good pitching beats good hitting and N.C. State veteran Sam Highfill was on his game.

Highfill’s stats coming in looked pedestrian enough — 6-2 with a 5.35 ERA in his 15 starts.

But what those numbers didn’t show was that Highfill, the grandson of Major Leaguer Joel Gibson, was part of N.C. State’s 2021 World Series team and was the winning pitcher in a College World Series wi over eventual CWS runner-up Vanderbilt.

Highfill’s line that day was 7 1/3 innings pitched, two hits, two walks and no runs allowed in that Omaha appearance.

On Saturday, Highfill was once again successful on the big stage, working six innings and allowing just one run and four hits to one of the most powerful teams in college baseball, the ball not leaving the yard for a Georgia team that entered third in the nation in home runs this season (145).

“Sam, what that guy has given to our baseball program , you can’t say enough about,” Avent said. “He was terrific today against a great offensive lineup, a tip of the cap to Sam Higfill, he was terrific.”

Johnson wasn’t about to throw his hitters under the bus, the Bulldogs confident that the hard-hit balls that went to Wolfpack fielders will fall when the teams meet again.

“The (Highfill) experience is good, I just don’t think we put any pressure on him to see truly how that experience would have played out,” Johnson said. “I’ve said for years the best pitching is run support.. you saw where the experience played out in the fifth inning, when he pitched to the scoreboard.”

Indeed, the Bulldogs will approach Sunday’s game much like every other, focused on one pitch and one play at a time, while all the wiser of the sharp capabilities of their ACC opponent.

Georgia star Charlie Condon, 0-for-3 with a walk on Saturday, talked about the confidence the Bulldogs brought into the Super Regional series.

That confidence, and Georgia’s talents, will surely be put to the test even as North Carolina State will most surely be starting one of its top two freshman arms on Sunday.

The experience will shift, and the Georgia players believe, so, too, will the momentum.

“We know there’s a quick turnaround,” said national on-base percentage leader and Athens Regional MVP Corey Collins, who reached base in two of his four plate appearances, “and that’s the best thing about it.”