(photo by Joe Bray)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's 2014 baseball season continues as the Tar Heels will travel south this weekend as the No. 3 seed in the Gainesville Regional.

UNC (34-25, No. 41 RPI) will open NCAA Tournament play on Friday against regional No. 2 seed Long Beach State (32-24, No. 29 RPI) at 1pm EST.

Regional host Florida (40-21, No. 3 RPI), the national No. 2 seed, will play No. 4 seed College of Charleston (41-17, No. 52 RPI) at 7pm EST.

The College of Charleston was projected by Baseball America to be a regional No. 3 seed after winning the CAA title. The Cougars won their season-opening series over UNC in February, which highlights the difficulty of the Tar Heels' path through Gainesville.

"We've got our hands full, to say the least," UNC head coach Mike Fox told reporters following the NCAA tournament selection show on Monday.

The Tar Heels were one of the final four teams selected to the field by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. That notation suggests that UNC's 13-7 win on Saturday over Maryland - a top-25 RPI opponent that earned the No. 2 seed in the Columbia Regional - could have been the necessary final piece of its NCAA Tournament resume puzzle.

"You've just got to keep playing and keep playing until someone tells you you can't play anymore," Fox said. "That could have been today, but the fact that we didn't cave in and fold Saturday after they tied it was a great credit and maybe got us over the hump."

The Tar Heel coaching staff will discuss its pitching rotation for rotation on Monday afternoon, although Fox's initial thought was to give the ball to ace Trent Thornton (7-3, 2.24 ERA) against LBSU.

"At this point in time, you've got to be careful not to overthink it," Fox said. "You've got to go win three games to win a regional anyway. And when you're in the situation we're in – it's not like we're a No. 1 playing a No. 4 – you've got to win that first one or you're probably not going to win the regional. It's a tough climb."

UNC is making its 13th-consecutive NCAA appearance and 15th in 16 seasons under Fox. The Tar Heels have won the most postseason games in the country (49) since 2006 and have advanced to the College World Series in six of the last eight years.

UNC won its lone game against Long Beach State at home in 1992. The Tar Heels own a 16-12 all-time record against Florida. The most recent matchup occurred in the 2005 Gainesville Regional as the Gators secured a 5-2 victory.

The winner of the Gainesville Regional will meet the winner of the Coral Gables Regional in Super Regional play.


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