The (1) North Carolina Tar Heels will host their double-elimination regional on Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium starting on Friday, May 31st and ending on either June 2nd or June 3rd if necessary. Joining the Tar Heels will be (2) Florida Atlantic, (3) Towson, and (4) Canisius who will make for some formidable match-ups at Chapel Hill. The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Columbia (SC) regional hosted by (1) South Carolina with (2) Clemson, (3) Liberty, and (4) St. Louis. Every game throughout the weekend will be broadcasted on ESPN3.
The (1) North Carolina Tar Heels are coming into the regional as the number one overall seed after capturing their first ACC Tournament Title since 2007 and sixth of all time, with a 4-1 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday. The Tar Heels record coming in is an impressive 52-8 earning them the top seed for the regional along with hosting for the eighth time in school history. This is the program’s 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina is known for starting off quickly on offense as they have scored in the first inning 29 straight times after their victory on Sunday. They have three players who were named to the ACC All-Tournament team with Kent Emanuel, Chaz Frank with Cody Stubbs being named Tournament MVP. The Tar Heels will begin play in game two on Friday at 6:00pm vs. (4) Canisius. This will be only the second time ever that these two teams have played each other with the first time being in the 1958 season which resulted in a 10-5 win for North Carolina. My prediction is that North Carolina will win their first game against Canisius on Friday evening.
(2)Florida Atlantic, the Sunbelt Conference Champions, are 39-20 heading into the regional. This is the second time in in the last four seasons that the Owls have qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They are riding an 11-game winning streak including four straight to win the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Their last performance was stellar with the offense tallying up 16 runs to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 16-8 who also qualified for the NCAA postseason. The Owls scored an astounding nine runs in the second inning of their championship game on Sunday which shows that this Florida Atlantic team cannot be taken lightly. The real strength of this team is its ability to score runs and go on streaks. The Owls will open the regional in game one vs. (3) Towson at 1:00pm on Friday. This will be the first ever match-up between these two teams and should make for an interesting afternoon. My prediction is that Towson will defeat Florida Atlantic in game one.
The (3) Towson Tigers have a lot of confidence going into the regional after sweeping the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with four straight wins after playing most of the season thinking their program would be cut at the end of the year. The Tigers are 29-28 on the season but finished their season strong winning six of their last seven games. Towson head coach Mike Gottlieb is in his 26th season and has a career record of 653-691-8. This is his third NCAA tournament appearance and his team is on a roll coming into the Chapel Hill regional. During the CAA tournament the Tigers as a team had a .406 Batting average and scored 47 runs through their four games. Towson is a high scoring offense that ranks 15th in the nation in runs scored, along with the Tiger’s batters drawing 288 walks which ranks ninth in the nation. Towson in total had six players named to All-CAA teams with one making first team (Wertz), four making second team (Parker, Fisher, Bowles, and Gonnella), and one making third team (Fratantuono). Towson played seven regular season games against nationally-ranked opponents with a record of 2-5, but they defeated UNCW two of three times and UNCW defeated UNC in April. Towson is set to face (2)Florida Atlantic in game one on Friday. I predict that the Tigers will defeat the Owls in the first game on the regional.
(4) Canisius made school history this season winning a school and conference record 42 games along with their first ever Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Title in program history. The Golden Eagles are coming off a dramatic 12-11 victory over Siena in the MAAC Conference Tournament, scoring the winning run in the ninth inning off a hit batter with the bases loaded to force the home the winning run. Jesse Puscheck earned tournament MVP honors for Canisius with seven RBIs, five runs scored, a Grand Slam, and a two-run homerun in the championship game. Canisius has a 42-15 record coming into the Chapel Hill regional and as a program they have won more than 33 games in five of the last six seasons. The Golden Eagles will face (1)North Carolina in game two on Friday. The Golden Eagles and the Tar Heels have faced off one time before with the score in favor of UNC. Look out for the hitters on Canisius to take over on day two.
Players to Watch
Kent Emanuel is a LHP for the North Carolina Tar Heels and will be a player to watch throughout this tournament, with his two years of experience and list of decorated accolades including being named as 1 of 30 finalists (along with teammate Colin Moran) for the 2013 Golden Spikes Award presented by USA Baseball.
Skye Bolt, Like Emanuel is a Tar Heel but unlike Emanuel, Bolt is a freshman who is a switch hitter and plays in the outfield. To go along with his power from both sides of the plate he also has a very powerful and accurate arm. Look for him to be a factor both offensively and defensively throughout the NCAA tournament.
Colin Moran is a returning All-American 3rd baseman for the Tar Heels and was also named as a finalist for the 2013 Golden Spikes Award presented by USA Baseball. This junior power hitter will most defiantly be a factor on offense for North Carolina as he is batting .357 with 13 homeruns coming into the regional.
Brendon Sanger is a talented freshman for the Florida Atlantic Owls who throws right and bats left. His .373 batting average and 45 scored runs makes him a top player on his team and defiantly one to focus on during the regional.
Dominic Fratantuono is a talented junior Outfielder for the Towson Tigers who bats left and throws right. He was on fire in the CAA tournament batting .600, scoring six runs, and hitting two homeruns along with picking up seven RBIs. He was also named to the all-tournament team along with teammate Andrew Parker.
My Prediction is that the No.1 team in the country (1) North Carolina will win their regional with a sweep. I do not expect UNC to lose a game in this regional tournament and they will advance.