Davidson baseball coach Dick Cooke’s 27-year wait ended Monday when the Wildcats officially earned the first NCAA tournament berth in school history.
Davidson, which battled through the losers’ bracket to win the Atlantic-10 tournament, has a tough draw: The Wildcats will face No. 2 national seed North Carolina on Friday in Chapel Hill.
Cooke, who has coached more games than anyone at Davidson, says making the NCAA field has been a long time coming.
“I think every coach, every team sits and daydreams and thinks how cool the opportunity would be,” Cooke said. “But at the same time I think we do a good job of focusing on the task at hand.”
Never miss a local story.
The Wildcats (32-24) and Tar Heels (47-12) are among six schools from the Carolinas in the 64-team field, which was announced Monday.
Wake Forest (39-18) and Clemson (39-19) both will host regionals this weekend. The Deacons begin play against Maryland-Baltimore County (23-23), and the Tigers take on UNC Greensboro (35-22).
N.C. State (34-23) is the No. 3 seed in the Lexington, Ky., regional and will face second-seeded Indiana (33-22-2).
South Carolina (35-25) missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years after making the field 15 years in a row before that.
Davidson has a long history with North Carolina, with the Tar Heels leading the series 90-23. The schools have met every year since Cooke arrived at Davidson in 1991, including the Tar Heels’ 7-6, extra-inning victory in Chapel Hill on May 9.
Davidson led by three runs entering the ninth before the Tar Heels rallied.
“That was a tough loss and we came away from it feeling the disappointment, but also saying, ‘Wow, that’s what can happen when you pitch and play defense and get some timely hitting,’” Cooke said.
Cooke said it will be a little different meeting North Carolina in a Friday night regional rather than a midweek, non-conference matchup. But he’s confident the moment won’t be too big for his players, who won six games in four days to take the A-10 crown in St. Louis.
“They were so relaxed and focused in the conference tournament and obviously had a great run there,” Cooke said. “They will carry that over into this for sure. The key is to not do anything different just because the urgency has changed.”