The North Carolina baseball team, 34-25 on the season, will open up NCAA Tournament play Friday at 1 p.m. as the third-seeded team in the Gainesville Regional and will be joined by host and No. 1 seed Florida, No. 2 seed Long Beach State, and No. 4 seed College of Charleston.
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Carolina will be looking to build off its 13-run explosion against Maryland in its curtain call at the ACC Tournament last weekend as the Tar Heels open up NCAA Tournament play for the 13th consecutive season.
The College World Series in Omaha is always the expected destination for the Diamond Heels. In fact, Head Coach Mike Fox updates the Omaha weather conditions each day on a whiteboard in the Chapel Hill training room.
But this year’s squad will need to find reliable, consistent hitting if it is to survive and advance out of a tough region that features the No. 2 overall national seed in the form of the Gators, 40-21 overall this season, and a 41-win College of Charleston team that beat Carolina in the 2014 season-opening series.
First up on the Road to Omaha, Carolina will send out ace Trent Thornton to the mound to pitch against Long Beach State.
The Dirtbags are not strangers to the field of 64. They’ll be making their 20th appearance, but first since 2008.
Carolina and Long Beach State have never met in the postseason. In fact, the two programs have played just one game all-time, a 1992 UNC win in Chapel Hill.
As for regional host Florida, UNC will have its hands full as the Gators boast a series sweep over ACC powerhouse Florida State, a team the Tar Heels dropped three of four games to this year.
Carolina and Florida last met in the NCAA tournament in 2005, when the Gators took a winner’s bracket game in Gainesville on their way to the College World Series. The Tar Heels won the only other postseason meeting in 1960 to book a spot in Omaha for the first time in school history.
Carolina is making its 29th NCAA appearance overall and 15th in 16 seasons in the Coach Fox era. The Tar Heels have won 49 games in the postseason since 2006, a mark that’s best in the nation.
Click here for full regional bracket and schedule of play.