After missing out on the fun last season, the North Carolina Tar Heels are back in Omaha for the fifth time in six years.
Over that span, they have been just about as successful as a team can be in Omaha without winning a championship. They fell just short of winning it all on a couple of occasions.
The Tar Heels will be looking to get that first championship this season.
Their run to Omaha began with a clean sweep of the regional round at home in Chapel Hill by the combined score of 25-3.
It began with a tidy 4-0 win over Maine and then continued with a 14-0 dusting of James Madison. They polished off the regional win with a 9-3 victory over that same James Madison team in the regional final.
UNC then moved on to the super regional round, where they hosted the Stanford Cardinal at home. Their winning ways continued there as they swept the series against Stanford with scores of 5-2 and 7-5.
They come into the College World Series with a perfect 5-0 record in postseason play. They have really yet to be challenged.
The Tar Heels are led by the steady hand of senior starting pitcher Patrick Johnson. He is 13-1 this season with a 2.27 ERA. In the first win over James Madison in the regional round, Johnson pitched eight shutout innings and limited JMU to just three hits.
He nearly bested that effort in the super regional against Stanford. In their series-opening 5-2 win, Johnson threw 7.2 innings, giving up five hits and one run.
Behind Johnson in the rotation, the Tar Heels have leaned heavily on freshman Kent Emanuel. He has an 8-1 record and a 2.55 ERA. Emanuel threw eight shutout innings in the regional-opening win over Maine and then threw six innings in the super regional-clinching win over Stanford, giving up just five hits and one run.
The UNC bullpen is led by Tate Parrish and Andrew Smith. Parrish, a situational lefty, has a 2.35 ERA in 30 appearances. Smith has a 2.77 ERA in 23 appearances. Cody Stiles gives the Tar Heels a flexible arm out of the bullpen. He has 12 appearances, including eight starts and sports a 2.43 ERA.
All told, North Carolina has a 3.26 team ERA.
Offensively, they are led by super-freshman Colin Moran. Moran is hitting .335 this season with nine home runs and 69 RBI.
Moran is supported in the lineup by Tommy Coyle and Levi Michael. Coyle is hitting .318 and has 18 stolen bases. Michael is hitting an even .300 and has 48 RBI.
The role of the clutch bat has been passed around all throughout their lineup. In the super regional-clinching win over Stanford, catcher Jacob Stallings went 3-for-5, driving in three runs.
In the first game against Stanford, nine-hole hitter Seth Baldwin launched a home run off of Stanford ace (and future first-round pick) Mark Appel.
Little was expected of this Tar Heels bunch prior to the season. They have spent the entire season proving everyone wrong, and now they are in Omaha. Head coach Mike Fox has his team playing very well and he himself knows a little something about getting his guys ready to play in the College World Series.
They might be a little out-manned talent-wise, but you can't measure heart and intangibles, and that's what North Carolina brings to the table.