Andy in Omaha emailed and said we could all stay at his house....well...not really but if anyone is going I am sure you can hook up with him for the low down on all good steak restaurants.
UNC will be making their fourth trip to the College World Series and in three previous trips have failed to win the national title. Given the fickle nature of baseball it is difficult to label not winning the title after reaching Omaha a failure much the same way reaching the Final Four in basketball is hardly considered a bad season. In UNC's case they have had ample opportunity to win the big prize, the best chance being the first trip in 2006 when the Heels played Oregon St in a decisive Game 3 for the title. Here is how it went down as told by your humble blogger:
Tied 2-2 in the top of the eight UNC puts runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and then moved the runners on a fielder’s choice to first. What followed was two strikeouts, the last negating a steal of home. In the bottom of the eight Daneil Bard(MLB 1st round draft pick) is cruising after giving up 2 runs in the fourth. With two outs and Andrew Miller(also a MLB 1st round draft pick) warmed up in the bullpen, UNC coach Mike Fox visits the mound and discussing removing Bard for Miller. After Bard pleads his case and stays in he walks Bill Rowe and then surrenders a single. Miller comes in and a routine grounder to second is thrown past the 1st baseman allowing the go ahead run to score.
In 2007 UNC faced Oregon St again for the title and got swept. Last season the Heels were eliminated prior to the championship series by upstart Fresno St. In all three cases, the Heels lost to a team that was inferior on paper during the regular season but got the best of the UNC in the College World Series. This is the maddening nature of baseball. Maddening because as well has Alex White and Adam Warren pitched this weekend along with the high powered offense, the Heels could just as easily go cold in both aspects when they reach Omaha. Of the four teams that have made it to Omaha, this version of the Tar Heels probably has the weakest pitching. That in itself will make it critically important to win from the start to minimize the number of games needed to reach the title series. The other test will be whether the offense can keep rolling. This will be the last hurrah for many of these guys and probably the last best chance UNC will have to win the national championship in baseball in the forseeable future. Dustin Ackley, among others, would love to cap off his three year career at UNC with a big series and a championship ring.
Last week, a South Carolina newspaper ran an ad celebrating the fact SCAR football, men's basketball and baseball all finished over .500 for the first time since the Gamecocks joined the SEC. Congratulations...I guess. UNC has already trumped that by miles with football reaching a bowl game, men's basketball winning the national title and now baseball reaching the College World Series. Nothing would cap off this academic year of Tar Heel dominance better than a baseball title to go along with the basketball championship not to mention all the other excellent performances across the athletic department.
As I have said before, it is a great time to be a Tar Heel fan.