The Road to Omaha begins Friday for four in-state teams that enter regionals with varying expectations.
North Carolina and N.C. State are favored to reach the super regionals, possibly the College World Series, while UNC Wilmington and Elon are viewed as underdogs to survive the weekend.
Here is the breakdown of each teams quest, with help from Baseball America national college baseball writer Aaron Fitt.
For the Tar Heels, twice a runner-up in Omaha, the No. 1 seed overall means higher expectations than ever.
UNC features ACC Player of the Year Colin Moran, ACC tournament MVP Cody Stubbs and freshman Skye Bolt to complement the power arms of ACC Pitcher of the Year Kent Emanuel, Benton Moss and second-team All-ACC reliever Trent Thornton.
The Heels begin their charge toward their potential sixth College World Series appearance in eight seasons against Canisius at 6 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium.
Last season, the Heels failed to advance out of regional play. But Fitt doesnt foresee a similar outcome.
Carolina got one of the friendlier draws out of the entire field, Fitt said. They got Towson, who to me should not be a No. 3 seed, because with a No. 89 RPI I cant understand how you are not a No. 4 seed. So, (UNC) essentially got two No. 4 seeds in their regional.
If the Heels advance to host a super regional, they likely will face South Carolina or Clemson two teams that are coming into the tournament hobbled at a combined record of 0-5 last week in their conference tournaments.
The Tar Heels won two out of three against Clemson at home earlier this season.
Most fans know South Carolinas recent history back-to-back national championships in 2010-11 and the runner-up to Arizona last season but Fitt said this isnt the same type of team under first-year coach Chad Holbrook.
South Carolina for me is one of the last hosts and that is yet another friendly draw for Carolina, he said. Theyve got the name recognition and the mojo from past seasons, but this South Carolina team was swept two times against Arkansas and Florida and lost a two-game series to Vanderbilt.
Great teams just dont do that.
The Wolfpack is hoping to make it to Omaha for the first time since 1968 their lone appearance in the College World Series.
Coach Elliott Avent was noticeably upset at the Packs seeding, but it will host Ole Miss, William & Mary and Binghamton this weekend with their first game Friday at 7 p.m. against Binghamton at Doak Field.
Ole Miss appears to be the most formidable opponent, and the Rebels likely will save junior ace Bobby Wahl for a Saturday night winners bracket game, possibly against N.C. State and its ace Carlos Rodon.
Wahl is 9-0 with a 1.99 ERA and has allowed one run or none in 11 starts. Baseball America projects him as a possible first-round pick in next weeks draft.
I think Ole Miss is a good two seed that has a chance to beat anybody with Bobby Wahl on the mound, because hes as good as anyone in the country, he said of the Rebels. None of these teams seems like a bad matchup, but there was a time earlier in the season where we had Ole Miss as a top 10 team and they can be very dangerous.
If seeds hold and the Pack advance, they would travel to Oregon in the super regional.
Fitt thinks the Wolfpack should have been seeded ahead of the Ducks, but said Oregon is a formidable foe.
Oregon was a very poor choice, Fitt said. I dont understand how you can be a national seed when you play five series against postseason teams and lose them all thats not a national seed resume. I can see a case for maybe Indiana over them, but I dont see a case for Oregon over N.C. State.
As much as I am down about Oregon as a national seed, they are still a strong team. They have good pitching and play great defense. I was also there for a regional last year, and the atmosphere there is rocking, so its not an easy place to play.
The Wolfpack still could host the super regional if Oregon loses this weekend.
Elon and UNC Wilmington
The Phoenix and Seahawks meet again Friday in the Charlottesville, Va., regional, where they are steep underdogs. Host Virginia earned the No. 6 national seed and is 9-2 in its past 11 games and is a favorite to move on to the super regionals.
The Seahawks, who knocked off North Carolina in late April, are making their sixth trip to the NCAA tournament. They appeared in Baseball Americas Top 25 poll and won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title but were bounced early in the conference tournament. Michael Bass, Ryan LaGrange and Luke Dunlap hit over .300, and Bass stole bases on 24 of 25 attempts.
Elon, which won the Southern Conference tournament and automatic bid, is led by Ryan Ginsella, whose 20 home runs were second in the nation.
UNCW swept two regular season games against the Phoenix.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less