North Carolina squeaked into the College World Series by besting South Carolina, 5-4, on Tuesday in Super Regional play. Now they are ready to make a serious push at the championship.
Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Tar Heels hung three on the Gamecocks to take the lead. With the bullpen shutting the door the rest of the way, North Carolina advanced.
This marks the sixth time in eight years that the Tar Heels have advanced to the CWS. InsideCarolina captured the thrill of victory, as well as pointing out the Tar Heels' first CWS game:
Celebration screenshot: pic.twitter.com/2gdAdbioil— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) June 11, 2013
UNC beats SCAR, 5-4. Heels will face N.C. State to open CWS play on Sunday, 3pm ET.— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) June 11, 2013
With the win, the Tar Heels locked up the eighth and final spot in the CWS. Indiana, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Oregon State and UCLA are the other seven teams.
Tuesday's victory came in an elimination game, as the two schools split the first two meetings of the series.
Who will win the 2013 CWS?
North Carolina earned another one-run victory in Game 1, and South Carolina handed the Tar Heels their worst loss of the season with an 8-0 win in the second game.
The nation's No. 1 seed isn't expected to have this difficult of a time advancing. However, it's not like North Carolina faced an easy path towards advancing. South Carolina has been the beasts of the sport the last three years. The Gamecocks won the CWS in 2010 and 2011 and were runners-up last year.
So, the important thing for the Tar Heels in their Super Regional was simply to advance. They didn't have to do so in dominating fashion. They did plenty of dominating earlier in the year as they entered NCAA tournament play with a 52-8 record en route to their first Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship since 1990.
They weren't content to just win the regular-season title, either. North Carolina took the ACC tournament in a run that included a 14-inning win over Clemson and an 18-inning win over North Carolina State.
Triumphing in these kinds of tournament nail biters is invaluable experience. It will give the Tar Heels the fortitude needed to succeed in the high-pressure atmosphere of the CWS.
It's not all about intangibles for the Tar Heels, though. This is a complete team. The Tar Heels scored 8.2 runs per game heading into NCAA tournament play with an offense led by third baseman Colin Moran—who the Miami Marlins just took with the No. 6 overall pick in the MLB draft.
They also have a solid and deep group of pitchers led by ACC Pitcher of the Year, left-hander Kent Emanuel—who was selected in the third round by the Houston Astros.
With the relief and excitement of advancing past their tough Super Regional fresh in their mind, the talented Tar Heels will play the CWS loose and with confidence. This will lead to them being in position to win it all.