N.C. State’s baseball team is headed to the Columbia, S.C., for its NCAA regional. East Carolina is traveling to Charlottesville, Va.
And North Carolina, as expected, will stay home at Boshamer Stadium to host for the fifth time in six years, as reward for earning the No. 3 overall national seed.
“Everybody’s doubted us the whole year, and people still doubt us,’’ said Tar Heels senior pitcher Greg Holt. “They say we’re too high of a national seed, that we didn’t deserve it, all this, all that. But now is the time to show people why we are the No. 3 national seed – we’ve won 40-plus games this season, and our trip to Omaha starts now.”
UNC (45-14) – which didn’t look like a contender for a national seed at the beginning of the season, but finished seventh in the USAToday Coaches’ Poll -- will meet Maine (32-22), the America East tournament champion and No. 3 regional seed, at 6 p.m. Friday. No. 2 regional seed FIU (40-18) will play No. 3 seed James Madison (40-17) in Friday’s 1 p.m. game. Saturday and Sunday games in Chapel Hill will be played at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., as well.
If the Tar Heels win the double-elimination regional, they would host the winner of the California-Fullerton regional – which features Cal-Fullerton, Illinois, Kansas State and Stanford -- in the best-of-three Super Regionals the following weekend.
UNC coach Mike Fox, whose teams advanced to the College World Series from 2006-09, said “there’s no question in my mind” that this squad has the ability to return to Omaha, again.
“I think we’ve proven over the course of the year, with playing the teams in the ACC – as good as our league was this year – we’ve got to hang our head on that,” he said. “And our kids know that, that we’ve played against some of the best teams in the country all year long, and we’ve been able to hold our own.”
N.C. State (34-25) – which put together a strong second half of the season, after starting 10-10 -- earned a No. 3 regional seed, and will play No. 2 seed Stetson (41-18). No. 1 South Carolina (45-14), the No. 4 overall nationall seed led by former Wolfpack coach Ray Tanner, and Georgia Southern (36-24) round out that regional.
"We were optimistic but didn't know for sure if we were in," State junior pitcher Cory Mazzoni said after his team gathered in its locker room at Doak Field to watch the NCAA selection show. "It will be challenging, but I think we're up it. We like to play the best teams and feel we can beat any team in the nation. We'd like to win and show we can compete with anybody and show what we're made of."
NCSU coach Elliott Avent hoped the Pack would warrant a higher seed but said it did not matter that much.
"I think we're definitely a 2 seed with what we've done, but there's not much difference," he said. "We're happy to be in and going to Columbia."
Meanwhile, East Carolina (39-19) earned a No. 2 seed in a region with the top national seed – Virginia. (49-9). ECU will face No. 3 St. John’s (35-20) at 6 p.m. Friday in Charlottesville; No. 4 Navy (33-23-1) plays the Cavaliers at 1 p.m.
The only other team from North Carolina to make the 64-team field, announced Monday, is Charlotte (42-14). It earned a No. 3 seed in the Arizona State region, and will play No. 2 Arkansas (38-20) Friday. ASU, the top seed in that region, plays New Mexico (20-39) in the other game.
In all, seven ACC squads made the tournament.