Listen to Audio (12:29)
“I’m glad we’re in there – that’s always my initial thought,” head coach Mike Fox told reporters immediately following the NCAA Selection Show. “Don’t take it for granted, certainly. I’ll tell you like any other coach if you’re one of the 64 teams, you’ve done what you needed to do because there are some good teams that are not.”
If there was any surprise for the Tar Heels on Monday, it’s that they weren’t seeded higher. UNC joined No. 4 seed Baylor in having the best overall record amongst the national seeds (44-14), posted a 22-9 record against Top-50 RPI opponents and won 14 of 18 games on the road.
North Carolina has also won 15 of its last 16 games.
While UNC may have an argument about its national seed, the NCAA selection committee offered a reprieve with arguably the weakest regional field in the country.
East Carolina will arrive in Chapel Hill this weekend as the No. 2 seed, joining No. 3 seed St. John’s and No. 4 seed Cornell to round out the regional.
ECU (35-22-1) received a boost due to its No. 30 RPI ranking, but the Pirates are 5-10 vs. Top-50 RPI, 8-13 on the road and have lost 14 of their last 26. Their inclusion into the tournament elicited terse responses from prominent national baseball writers on Twitter.
Aaron Fitt, Baseball America’s national college writer, tweeted: “ECU was my last team in the field, and didn't feel great about it. Ridiculous that they're a 2 seed.”
Kendall Rogers, Perfect Game’s college baseball managing editor, had even stronger words: “ECU getting in at this point is pretty silly/a joke, but it was all about RPI/Gary Overton.”
Overton, ECU’s assistant athletic director, is a member of the NCAA selection committee.
The backlash over East Carolina may lead UNC fans to expect a stroll into the super regional round. The Tar Heels, however, needed a Chaz Frank RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the Pirates, 1-0, on Apr. 25.
“I know they’ve been losing games as of late – they’ve been on a little slide and didn’t know if they were going to get in or not – but that’s still a good ball club,” Frank said. “They have that hope still left. They’re going to come in here strong and want to win. We’re an in-state rival and they want to take us out.”
The Big East champion Red Storm check in with a 37-21 record (No. 48 RPI) and Cornell (31-15-1) will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1977 after winning the Ivy League title.
North Carolina is making its 27th NCAA appearance. The Tar Heels are 15-0 at home in regional play since 2006. UNC has outscored its opponents, 58-11, in its last two home regionals.
The Chapel Hill Regional is paired with the Tucson Regional for super regional action. Host and top seed Arizona will be joined by No. 2 seed New Mexico State, No. 3 seed Louisville and No. 4 seed Missouri.
CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL
Friday, June 1
Game 1: #2 East Carolina (35-22-1) vs. #3 St. John's (37-21), 1 p.m.
Game 2: #1 North Carolina (44-14) vs. #4 Cornell (31-15-1), 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 2
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 3
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 6 p.m.
Monday, June 4
Game 7: 6 p.m. - If necessary