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CWS: #3 UNC vs #6 Vanderbilt

Where: T.D. Ameritrade Park, Omaha, NE
When: Saturday, June 18th, 2:00 PM
TV/Radio: ESPN, 99.9 FM The Fan, 1360 AM WCHL
Records: UNC 50-14, Vanderbilt 52-10
Super Regional Results: UNC def. Stanford 2-0; Vandy def. Oregon St. 2-0

UNC makes its fifth appearance in the last six seasons on college baseball's biggest stage. Needless to say it won't be easy. The Heels come into the CWS rather quietly. Unlike the past UNC CWS entrants, this team is not necessarily chock full of talent and is for the most part very young. It has been a run fueled by small ball and outstanding pitching. So much of the attention is put on Vanderbilt, Florida, Virginia and defending champion South Carolina as potential favorites. UNC, despite a #3 national seed, is lurking in the background. After four appearances in the CWS where expectations were high maybe the lower profile will produce a different result.

UNC sends ace Patrick Johnson(13-1, 2.27 ERA) to the hill to try and get UNC into the winner's bracket from the start. It will be a tough task versus the Commodore offense which is fifth nationally in batting average but interestingly enough ranks behind UNC in runs scored. The word on T.D. Ameritrade Park is it has size and combined with the new bats used this year in college baseball could result in lower scoring games. That could work to UNC's advantage but it should be forgotten Vanderbilt is 3rd nationally in team era. UNC is 31st which does not reflect the way Johnson and Kent Emanuel have pitched over the past two months. In short UNC has to put a premium on getting wins with Johnson and Emanuel on the mound to keep the pitching staff in better shape. Yes every team is operating that way but in UNC's case, the third starter is not nearly as strong so UNC getting wins with their best two pitchers on the mound is a must. In today's matchup, opportunities to score could be scarce so it would be best if UNC could get out of that annoying habit they seem to have of leaving runners on bases in the early innings.

The one talking point you will hear ad nauseum today will be about catcher Jacob Stallings father who is the head basketball coach at Vanderbilt. Kevin Stallings is a former Roy Williams assistant and by all accounts they are still friends. It would not surprise me to see Roy sitting with the elder Stallings at the game. The question is whether Roy can get Stallings to wear a Tar Heel sticker.

With the whole week of football parking tickets and phone calls, the Diamond Heels being on the field today is a welcome respite.