North Carolina set a state record by sending seven teams to the NCAA baseball tournament this season. For the second straight year, a pair of teams from the state will advance to the second weekend of the big dance, as Duke and North Carolina will move on to the Super Regionals.
The state also set a record by hosting three regionals — in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Greenville. However, home turf didn’t pay the same dividends that it has in the past. Heading into this year, since the NCAA Tournament moved to the current regional/Super Regional setup in 1999, North Carolina teams had hosted 19 regionals and advanced out of them 15 times.
This year, just one of the three host teams — UNC — was able to advance.
Here’s a look back at the five teams who were eliminated in the first weekend of the tournament, and a look ahead to next weekend for Duke and Carolina.
The Wolfpack were chosen as a national seed and hosted a regional at Doak Field. The Pack was immediately sent to the loser’s bracket, however, with a 5-1 loss to Army in the opening game. State made a run, posting wins over Northeastern (9-3) and in a rematch with Army (11-1), setting up a regional final matchup with Auburn. The Tigers pounded the Wolfpack 15-7, however, ending State’s season at 42-18. It’s the second straight time that State has failed to advance from a regional it hosted — the Wolfpack fell to eventual champion Coastal Carolina in 2016. The last time NC State advanced out of a regional it hosted was in 2013.
The Pirates were chosen to host a regional for the first time since 2010 and were matched with in-state foe UNC Wilmington in the first game. ECU posted a lopsided 16-7 win that would prove to be its last of the season. The Pirates fell to eventual regional champion South Carolina in the next game, 4-2, then dropped a rematch to UNCW, 9-7.
The Seahawks earned their third bid in four years. Following their loss to ECU in the opener, they eliminated Ohio State with a 4-3 victory. That earned UNCW a rematch with East Carolina. For the second time in three years, the Hawks were able to knock off an in-state rival. UNCW beat Duke in the 2016 tourney. In another repeat from 2016, South Carolina ended Wilmington’s run, with an 8-4 win in the regional final.
The Camels earned their third NCAA bid ever and first since 2014. Campbell earned its first-ever tournament win back then, but the Camels weren’t able to duplicate it this year. Heading to Athens, Ga., Campbell drew the two teams that would end up playing in the regional final. Campbell first lost to Georgia, 18-5, then fell to Duke, 16-8. That leaves Campbell’s all-time NCAA Tournament record at 1-6.
Like Campbell and UNCW, the Aggies were sent to a regional that featured a higher-rated in-state foe. A&T headed to Chapel Hill for its second NCAA appearance ever and first since 2005. Like that first appearance, the tournament was short for the Aggies. They lost to host Carolina 11-0 in the opener, then were eliminated by Purdue, 14-4. In four NCAA games all-time, the Aggies have lost by a composite 43-9 score.
As seems to happen so often during basketball season, the last two in-state teams — and last two ACC teams standing — both wear different shades of blue. Here’s a look at Duke and Carolina’s first weekend and prospects for getting to Omaha.
The Tar Heels had a drama-free regional, pounding A&T 11-0, then topping Houston twice — 4-3 and 19-11 in a four-hour, 14-minute slog of a game that featured a school-record scoring output and a weather delay. It was a relief for Carolina, which advanced out of Boshamer Stadium for the first time since 2013. The Heels lost while hosting a regional last season, with in-state foe Davidson advancing on Carolina’s home turf.
The No. 6 Tar Heels will now host the No. 11 Stetson Hatters, who topped Oklahoma State to move on. It was the first time in school history Stetson had hosted a regional, and the Hatters will now head to Chapel Hill to try to continue rewriting their record book.
It will be a tall task. UNC has never lost a Super Regional it hosted, and in-state teams have won their last six Super Regionals played at home. ECU, which hosted a Super Regional in Kinston in 2001 and lost to Tennessee, was the last North Carolina team to lose when hosting that round.
The Hatters are red-hot, heading to Carolina on an 18-game win streak. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 1985. Stetson holds an 8-5 advantage in the teams’ previous 13 meetings.
The Blue Devils were sent to Athens, Ga., for the first weekend of the tournament, and Saturday evening, things looked bleak indeed. Duke had already lost its opening game, 6-0 to Troy. In an elimination game, the Blue Devils found themselves down 8-1 to Campbell and facing a frustrating end to the most promising season in decades. Duke scored two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, then exploded for 11 in the ninth to earn an improbable win. The following day, in a rematch with Troy, the Blue Devils trailed by four after one inning, only to storm back again and win 15-6.
Why change a successful formula? The Blue Devils trailed Georgia 4-0 in one game and 2-0 in the other before coming back to win by 8-5 and 8-4 scores and earn a trip to the Super Regional. It’s the third year in a row that a team from the state has won a regional on the road, following in the steps of Davidson (in Chapel Hill) last year and ECU (in Charlottesville) in 2016.
Duke will travel to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech. It’s Duke’s first Super Regional ever, and the Blue Devils are hoping to follow in the steps of the 2006 Tar Heels, the last team from the state to advance to the College World Series on the road. Carolina won at Tuscaloosa that season.