East Carolina and N.C. State didn’t meet during the regular season. The Pirates and Wolfpack just might in the NCAA tournament.
The Pirates (43-15), the No. 10 national seed, will host N.C. State (42-17), Campbell and Quinnipiac in the Greenville regional in the opening round of the NCAA baseball tournament.
The 64-team bracket was announced on Monday after the regional host sites were selected on Sunday. North Carolina (42-17) received the No. 14 national seed and will open regional play at home against UNC-Wilmington (32-29) on Friday at 2 p.m.
Duke (31-25) grabbed one of the last at-large spots in the field and will start in the Morgantown, W.Va. regional. The Blue Devils face Texas A&M (37-21-1) on Friday at 4 p.m.
ECU opens double-elimination regional play with Quinnipiac (29-27) on Friday at 6 p.m. N.C. State takes on Campbell (35-19) at noon. If both the Pirates and Wolfpack win, they will meet on Saturday (or if they both lose).
ECU was a regional site last year and the crowds at Clark-LeClair Stadium were raucous.
“I think it will be absolutely crazy and that’s what the players like,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “You want it to be crazy and you want it to be packed and you want it to be loud. I think that’s what we’ll get.”
N.C. State, making its fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance, had hoped to be a regional host but a pair of losses at the end of the ACC tournament cost the Wolfpack.
They dropped an 11-0 game to Florida State on Friday and 10-2 to Georgia Tech on Saturday. This, a week after N.C. State had closed out the regular season with two road wins over UNC by a combined score of 22-2.
“We could have done a little more to solidify that we were a host,” N.C. State shortstop Will Wilson said.
Campbell boasts a potential first-round pick in pitcher Seth Johnson and won the Big South tournament for the second straight year. The Camels are familiar with both the Wolfpack and ECU. They split a pair of games with each team this season.
The Tar Heels recovered from poor finish to the regular season. They lost a series at Pittsburgh, which didn’t qualify for the ACC tournament, and then had the poor losses to N.C. State.
But they made their case with a 4-0 record in Durham, capped by a 10-2 win in the championship game over Georgia Tech. This is the 10th time UNC will host in the past 14 years. The Tar Heels made the College World Series last year.
“I’ve always believed in our club and I think the makeup of our team is why we’ve won 42 games,” UNC coach Mike Fox said on Monday.
“Just pretty resilient and tough to battle from the last two regular-season weekends to win the ACC championship.”
Tennessee (38-19) and Liberty (42-19) are the other two teams in the Chapel Hill regional and will play at 7 p.m. on Friday at Boshamer Stadium.
West Virginia (37-20) is the regional host for Duke. The Mountaineers, led by former ECU coach Randy Mazey, are the No. 16 national seed and are hosting for the first time since 1955.
WVU faces Fordham (38-22) on Friday night (8 p.m.) after the Duke-Texas A&M game. The Blue Devils got one of the last at-large bids over Wake Forest despite losing two of three games in the regular season to the Demon Deacons (31-26). But Duke had a better RPI (No. 44) and strength of schedule (No. 16) than the Deacs (53 and 41), who did not make the tournament.
“We were nervous,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “Felt somewhat good that all the projections had us in but knowing that there was a chance for some conferences to have bid-stealers — and three of them did happen. So I knew if we got in we were going to be among the last handful of schools to get in. We are happy. I’m thrilled for our players and coaches.”
The winners of the regional round advance to the Super Regionals. That’s a best-of-3 format with the top eight seeds set up to host, if they advance.
NCAA tournament schedule
No. 3 Campbell (35-19) vs. No. 2 N.C. State (42-17), noon
No. 4 Quinnipiac (29-27) vs. No. 1 ECU(43-15)m 6 p.m.
Chapel Hill regional
No. 4 UNCW (32-29) vs. No. 1 UNC (42-17), 2 p.m.
No. 3 Liberty (42-19) vs. No. 2 Tennessee (38-19), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Duke (31-25) vs. No. 2 Texas A&M (37-21-1), 4 p.m.
No. 4 Fordham (38-22) vs. No. 1 West Virginia (37-20), 8 p.m.