OMAHA, Neb. — North Carolina's bid to stay alive today at the College World Series will be tested by a team that has been living on the edge for most of the past three weeks.
The Tar Heels face Texas in a 2 p.m. Bracket 1 elimination game at TD Ameritrade Park. It will be the sixth time since the NCAA baseball tournament started that the Longhorns will be facing a must-win situation.
They won the previous five, rebounding from a second-game loss in the regional tournament with three straight victories. After losing the opening game of the super regional to Arizona State, Texas won the final two games to secure a 34th trip to Omaha.
"Here we go again," Texas coach Augie Garrido said after Saturday's 8-4 opening-round loss to Florida. "We've been here before. We know we can win. The championship has been out of the loser's bracket before, so we know that it can be done.
"We have an opportunity. So we're in it. And we'll have to fight our way back."
North Carolina faces the same scenario after Vanderbilt scored five runs in the final four innings of a 7-3 first-round win. The Tar Heels left 16 runners on base in the loss that left them facing an elimination situation for the first time in NCAA play.
North Carolina swept through the first two rounds of the tournament to earn its fifth trip to Omaha in the past six seasons. Coach Mike Fox said his team needs to regroup quickly in order to keep this visit from ending more abruptly than the previous four.
The Tar Heels reached the championship series in 2006 and 2007, then played the maximum five games before falling in the bracket title game in 2008. They lost their opening game in 2009 before bouncing back with a win, then had their season end with a third-game loss to Arizona State.
North Carolina has lost back-to-back games just four times during this year's 50-15 season.
"We've been in this situation before," Fox said. "Certainly not out here. We get a day off, which is unusual. I think most college teams would prefer to get right back on the field the next day. Not let this linger too long."
The Tar Heels went through a light workout Sunday at Boys Town. Fox wanted to make sure to his players had some family time on Father's Day.
"I think that's extremely important," he said. "Dads always make you feel good, no matter what. So I'll make sure they get around their dads. We'll regroup, and we'll see what happens Monday."
Fox said he might consider juggling his batting order to alleviate some pressure on slumping shortstop Levi Michael. The junior went 0-for-4 in the loss to Vanderbilt, leaving him 4-for-26 (.154) for the tournament and dropping his average to .295.
Michael, who normally hits second, is the Tar Heels' second-most productive run producer with 48 RBIs.
"We may drop him down a bit," Fox said. "That's really the only thing you can do this late, maybe switch things up a little bit.
"He's trying as hard as he can, and he's getting pitched (to) pretty well. But he can't get anything going. He's been up there with guys in scoring position, and he's gotten himself out. He's pressing a little bit, trying too hard. Hopefully, we can get him back on track."
North Carolina will start freshman Kent Emanuel (8-1, 2.55 ERA), and Texas plans to go with senior Cole Green (8-3, 3.03.
Emanuel will be facing a Texas lineup that sometimes struggles to score runs. But the Longhorns have averaged more than six runs a game while hitting .318 in their five elimination games.
"It's tough, obviously, to fight from behind all the time, and we don't want to be put in those positions all the time," Texas shortstop Brandon Loy said. "We have an opportunity in front of us, and we're not going to back down from it."