ECU, UNC host regionals as 5 teams make baseball tourney

Wake, UNCG and Campbell got bids while NC State was a surprising snub

UNC's Vance Honeycutt rounds the bases after hitting one of his two home runs in the ACC Baseball Tournament title game to help the Tar Heels to a win over rival NC State and secure hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack were surprisingly left out of the postseason bracket. (Chris Carlson / AP Photo)

Five baseball teams from North Carolina colleges received bids to this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the big story when the brackets were revealed on Memorial Day afternoon was who didn’t.

NC State was left out of the field despite an RPI ranking of 33 and a late-season run that lifted the Wolfpack into the ACC Tournament championship game. State had a 4-2 record against the top eight national seeds, including a 2-0 shutout win at East Carolina and a 12-3 blowout of the eighth-seeded Pirates in Raleigh.

State was below .500 in the ACC regular season, however, and the selection committee was apparently not impressed with its nonconference schedule despite the high RPI rating.

The Pack, of course, advanced to the College World Series last season and upset Vanderbilt early in the week, but a COVID outbreak forced NC State to play with a skeleton crew in one game before the NCAA refused to allow its tournament run to continue.

“We are shocked and disappointed that our baseball team did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament,” Athletic Director Boo Corrigan said in a statement. “We hurt for our student-athletes and coaches who worked so hard and who we believe deserved this opportunity.”

While the Wolfpack search for answers, a group of five teams will represent the state as play begins this weekend.

The best bet to reach Omaha, according to NCAA seeding, is East Carolina, which received the No. 8 national seed and will host a regional in Greenville. The Pirates, 42-18 on the season, will face Coppin State in the opening game. The Eagles won their first MEAC championship since 1995 and enter the tournament with a 24-28 record.

The other two teams in the regional are Virginia, one of nine ACC teams to receive a bid, and Coastal Carolina. UVA likely lost its chance to host its own regional with losses to Florida State and Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers are 38-17 but have lost three of their last four.

Coastal returns to the tournament for the first time since 2019 after going 36-18-1. The Chanticleers finished third in the Sun Belt and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

This is ECU’s fifth time hosting a regional and third straight tournament doing so. The Pirates have advanced to the next weekend three of the previous four times they’ve hosted, including each of the last two years.

ECU is 42-18 and the American Athletic Conference tournament champion, as well as winners of its last 18.

The team to emerge from Greenville will face the winner of the Austin regional, headed by No. 9 Texas.

Over in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels will be hosting a regional as well after being named the No. 10 national seed after winning the ACC Tournament.

The 38-19 Heels will open play against 30-21 Hofstra, which won its first CAA conference title to earn the first NCAA bid in program history.

The Pride enters the game with the Tar Heels on a nine-game winning streak, while UNC has won its last seven. The two teams have never met before.

Also in the Chapel Hill regional are VCU, which won the Atlantic 10 title for the second straight year. The Rams have won 15 in a row and will meet Georgia, which earned an at-large bid after going 35-21. The Dawgs are suffering injuries to the pitching staff and will have just two of their regular starting pitchers available for the regional.

UNC will be hosting a regional for the 12th time, and 11 of those have come since 2006.

The winner in Chapel Hill will advance to face the winner of the Stillwater regional, headed by No. 7 Oklahoma State.

The other three North Carolina teams to receive bids will be traveling for the opening weekend. Wake Forest is headed to College Park as the No. 2 regional seed behind No. 15 national seed Maryland. The Deacs, 40-17-1 on the year, will play 46-13 UConn. This is Wake’s first NCAA bid since 2017 and 14th overall. LIU is the fourth team in that regional.

UNC Greensboro is the No. 4 regional seed in the Statesboro regional behind No. 16 national seed Georgia Southern, which they’ll play in the opening game. Notre Dame and Texas Tech are also in that regional.

UNCG won the Southern Conference Tournament and enters with a 34-28 record. This is the fourth NCAA bid for the Spartans and first since 2017.

Campbell rounds out the in-state contingent, heading to the Knoxville regional as the No. 3 regional seed behind top national seed Tennessee. The Camels will open with Georgia Tech, 34-22 on the year. Alabama State is the other team in that regional.

Campbell is making its fourth straight NCAA appearance and sixth trip to the tournament overall. The Camels won the Big South and enter with an impressive 40-17 record but face a tall task getting past the 53-7 Volunteers to escape the regional.