The North Carolina baseball team was awarded an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament on Monday following a highly competitive season, and the team will travel to Lubbock, Texas, for its first stop on the road to the College World Series.
The Tar Heels earned the No. 3 seed in the Lubbock Regional and will compete in their first game on Friday at 7 p.m., where they will face UCLA. It will be UNC's 19th appearance in the tournament in the last 22 seasons.
North Carolina had one of the most difficult schedules of any team in the country this season. The Tar Heels not only played in one of the most competitive conferences in baseball, but they also had a tough slate of nonconference opponents, finishing the regular season 27-25 overall and 18-18 in ACC play.
UNC is one of eight ACC teams competing in the postseason, along with Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, N.C. State, Notre Dame and Virginia.
The Tar Heels were at risk of losing an at-large bid after a loss to Pittsburgh in the opening game of the ACC tourney, but they earned a competitive victory against N.C. State in the final game of ACC Tournament Pool Play last Friday, 9-6.
North Carolina has won six of its last nine games to carry some momentum into the tournament. The Tar Heels just sneaked into the 64-team field as one of the last four teams to make the cut.
Texas Tech, the host and No. 1 seed in the region, will compete against the Army Black Knights at 12 p.m. to start the day Friday. The Tar Heels will face UCLA later that day in the 2-3 seed matchup.
What to expect in Lubbock
North Carolina leads 8-5 in wins against the Bruins dating back to 1993, and the programs have met twice in the postseason — most recently in 2013, when the Tar Heels suffered a 4-1 loss.
UNC may not be the favorite to win on Friday, but with the outfielder duo of Angel Zarate and Justice Thompson both hitting above .300, redshirt sophomore ace Austin Love on the mound and sophomore Caleb Roberts leading the team in home runs and RBIs, the Tar Heels are likely to play at their best against the Bruins.
UCLA was fifth in the PAC-12 with a team batting average of .286, led by redshirt sophomore JT Schwartz, who held the conference batting title with his .405 average this past season. After ending their 35-18 regular season campaign with a four-game winning streak, the Bruins are riding high going into the tournament.
The schedule for the remainder of the regional will be as follows:
- On Saturday, the losers of the first two matchups will face off in game 3, while the winners will play in game 4.
- The following day, the winner of game 3 and the loser of game 4 will play in game 5, and the winners of games 4 and 5 will play in game 6.
- If needed, a rematch of game 6 will be played on Monday to determine the winner of the regional.
The victor will move on to compete in the Super Regional round against the winner of the Stanford Regional, which includes Stanford, UC Irvine, Nevada and North Dakota State. The team that comes out on top in the Super Regional will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.