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There was little doubt that North Carolina would earn a national seed, despite posting a 5-5 record over its final 10 games, including a 1-2 record at the ACC Tournament in Durham last weekend.
"Not really," UNC head coach Mike Fox replied when asked on Monday if he was concerned that the final three weekends would cost his club a seed. "Like I said after the [Clemson] game, I wasn't confident and I wasn't not confident. You can drive yourself batty looking at all of that. They have a tough job to do. I'm just glad we were rewarded for our whole 58 games that we played in a good league. I think winning the Coastal Division really helped us in that regard."
The Tar Heels will christen their new facility in a postseason bath against Dartmouth on Friday night at 6 p.m., following Coastal Carolina and Kansas at 2 p.m. The Chapel Hill regional, played in double elimination format, runs through Sunday. A seventh game would be played on Monday, if needed.
No one on this UNC roster has experienced a collegiate season that didn't end in Omaha, but simply wishing – or expecting – Rosenblatt Stadium to emerge on the horizon won't do the trick. Three years of unprecedented success does provide a quality blueprint, however.
"Just come out with a bang and win our first game," senior pitcher Adam Warren told a group of reporters following Monday's NCAA Tournament Selection Show. "Focus on one game at a time. I don't think we [can] look ahead to who might be in our Super Regional and who we may have to play in our second game. We just have to take it one game at a time."
Warren (7-2, 3.46 ERA) joins junior Alex White (7-4, 4.13 ERA) and sophomore Matt Harvey (6-2, 5.60 ERA) as arguably the nation's top pitching triumvirate, boasting a nationally-leading 559 strikeouts on the season.
"You've got to start with pitching in the NCAA Tournament," Fox said. "If you don't pitch, you have very little chance. And you've got to pitch back-to-back-to-back. You've got to get three quality starts and you need to get a good start right out of the gate. If you have to go into your bullpen early in Game 1, or really even in Game 2, you might be in trouble."
The NCAA continues to keep a close eye on travel logistics in the current economic setting, placing Coastal Carolina – whose home campus is only three hours away – in the Chapel Hill Regional. With players from both programs having played ball together growing up, the intensity level increases when local schools such as these tangle, especially in a postseason setting.
"I think that's beneficial for us," Ackley said. "We know more about those teams. It's not like we're facing a team that we might not know anything about. I think that definitely helps us, and definitely being in our own area will help us draw more fans and things like that."
The Chanticleers knocked off the top-ranked Tar Heels, 7-3, back on Feb. 24 at Boshamer Stadium in the programs' only meeting this season. UNC led 3-1 through seven innings, but a Jose Iglesias two-run homer in the eighth and two North Carolina errors in the ninth set the stage for Coastal Carolina's rally in giving the Heels their first loss at Boshamer.
The winner of the Chapel Hill Regional moves on to face the victor of the Greenville, N.C. regional, which includes No. 1 seed East Carolina, No. 2 seed South Carolina, No. 3 seed George Mason and No. 4 seed Binghamton.
Much of the talk on Monday afternoon centered around ACC Tournament Champion Virginia, which earned another cross-country trek to take part in the brutal Irvine Regional. The Cavaliers will join No. 1 seed UC Irvine and No. 3 seed San Diego State – boasting the nation's top pitcher in Stephen Strasburg – for the weekend.
"Better them than us," Fox said. "You don't ever know – they may take that exactly the right way and go out there and win that regional. Virginia's very good."
Seven ACC teams punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament, with Duke being the only ACC Tournament participant not to get an invite.
2009 NCAA CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL SCHEDULE Friday, May 29 Game 1: #2 Coastal Carolina (46-14) vs. #3 Kansas (37-22), 2 p.m. Game 2: #1 North Carolina (42-16) vs. #4 Dartmouth (27-16), 6 p.m. Saturday, May 30 Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 1 p.m. Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 5 p.m. Sunday, May 31 Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m. Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 5 p.m. Monday, June 1 Game 7: 6 p.m. - IF NECESSARY (If Game 5 winner also wins Game 6)