Good luck, Tar Heels

Jun. 16, 2013 @ 01:47 AM

This is such a wonderfully familiar feeling for Tar Heel baseball fans.

It’s mid-June, the College World Series is getting underway – and the UNC Chapel Hill baseball team is in Omaha, ready to play ball.

Since 2006, the Tar Heels have been to the series five times.

But this year has a different feel.

While the team all but coasted to the series in the past, this year was trench warfare. But what an exciting ride it has been.

To win the ACC tournament, the Heels had to play 18 innings against arch-rival N. C. State University in the longest game in Atlantic Coast Conference tournament history. They eked out a 13-inning win in an elimination game with Florida Atlantic to win the regionals, then had to go to a final elimination game with South Carolina to win the Superregionals and earn the berth to Omaha.

So the team and its fans are pumped and ready for Omaha – and hoping that, just as this year’s run to the series was different, the outcome this year, too, will be a new one. The Heels have yet to win the title.

Aptly, the Tar Heels’ first opponent today will be that same N.C. State team they beat in 18 innings just three weeks ago. This time, they’ve both travelled 1,200 miles to play a rematch.

For UNC, it will be a tough start to tournament play, facing the Wolfpack’s sophomore ace, Carlos Rodon. The Heels are ready. “If you’re going to try to win a national championship, you have to beat somebody like Carlos Rodon,” UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes said last week.

The double-elimination tournament will end either June 25 or 26th. We suspect that many area sports fans who normally root against the folks in light blue will be eager to see these folks, who have fought so hard this spring, be on the field for that last game.

What’s more, we suspect we join thousands around here who hope to see the traditional dogpile on the mound be that of Tar Heel players when that last game concludes.

Reflecting on their string of long, close games in recent weeks, pitcher Kent Emanuel concluded, “This year we’ve had some incredible games. This team’s definitely one that likes to battle.”

We hope that battle ends in victory in Omaha later this month.