As the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament, the North Carolina Tar Heels were expected to breeze through the opening rounds before the real work began in the College World Series in Omaha. North Carolina did just that in both the regional and Super Regional rounds, dispatching each team it faced to advance to Omaha unscathed with a shiny unbeaten record. The Tar Heels haven't been flashy, but have put in a workman-like effort, and find themselves squarely in the mix for the NCAA title.
After a 45-14 regular season record, North Carolina was awarded the No. 3 seed on Selection Sunday, with only Virginia and Florida seeded higher in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. And in the early-goings, North Carolina made it look easy, dispatching Maine in the first game of the NCAA regionals in Chapel Hill, 4-0. The hot pitching continued in Game 2 as the Tar Heels downed James Madison, 14-0. Two games into the NCAA Tournament and North Carolina had outscored its opponents 18-0.
In its third, and final, game of the regional, North Carolina faced James Madison again, and though the Tar Heels easily won the game to complete the unbeaten weekend, they did finally surrender a run in a 9-3 win.
It was more of the same in the Super Regional round, though the Stanford Cardinal made things interesting before being swept away. Patrick Johnson pitched 7-2/3 innings of one-run ball in Game 1 as the Tar Heels took the early advantage with a 5-2 win. In Game 2, North Carolina made a late-charge and, after a severe weather delay in the ninth inning, closed out the Cardinal with a 7-5 win to sweep the series.
Probable starters for opening two games
Patrick Johnson (13-1, 2.27 ERA)
Kent Emanuel (7-1, 2.62 ERA)
Players to watch
Colin Moran, 1B/3B
Moran is the team's best hitter by any measure, and the key to the North Carolina offense. His .335 average, .552 slugging percentage and .995 OPS top the team while his .443 on-base percentage is second-best by a slim margin. He also tops the team with nine home runs and 19 doubles on the year.
Tommy Coyle, MIF
Coyle is the man to get on-base, then cause havoc on the basepaths for the Tar Heels. His .843 OPS is fourth-best on the team and his .322 average is second-best. And while North Carolina likes to put the game in motion from the top of the lineup to the bottom, Coyle leads the way with a team-high 18 stolen bases, and six caught stealing, on the year.
For more on North Carolina, head on over to Carolina March, our Tar Heels blog.