06/07/13 — Four ACC teams eye trip to Omaha, chance to end league futility

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Four ACC teams eye trip to Omaha, chance to end league futility

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 7, 2013 1:47 PM

When the lights shine brighter, the performance has to match the magnitude of the stage, especially this weekend.

The NCAA Division I baseball super regionals begin play today and the Atlantic Coast Conference has an opportunity to make a significant statement. Overall No. 1 seed North Carolina, N.C. State, Florida State and Virginia are each hosting a best-of-three series with a trip to the College World Series on the line.

The ACC last sent four teams to Omaha in 2006.

Somehow the league, with its storied baseball history and 80 CWS appearances, has won just one national championship -- Wake Forest in 1955. ACC teams have finished runner-up on nine occasions.

UNC needed some late-game heroics to earn a super regional matchup with South Carolina, which has played for the last three CWS titles and won two in 2010 and 2011. The Tar Heels rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning, and a three-run deficit in the 12th before beating Florida Atlantic 12-11 in 13 innings in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Gamecocks are making their fourth straight trip to the super regional. Each team is loaded with Major League talent and winning game one in a best-of-three series is pivotal.

N.C. State hasn't been to the CWS in Omaha since 1968. The Wolfpack hope to end that streak this weekend against Rice. N.C. State surrendered just three runs in three regional games last weekend and the Owls average more than five runs a contest. Wolfpack ace Carlos Rodon leads the nation with 161 strikeouts.

If Rice is going to sneak out of Raleigh with pair of victories, it is likely going to have to win games two and three when Rodon isn't on the mound.

Florida State has made 21 trips to Omaha and has come up short in the championship series three times. The Seminoles host an Indiana team making its first super regional appearance. Florida State's deep and talented pitching staff must slow down a Hoosiers squad that scored nearly nine runs a game in its three regional victories.

Virginia hosts its fourth super regional as Mississippi State visits Charlottesville. The Cavaliers have made two CWS trips and will have to navigate a super regional stocked with quality arms and two teams that have faced quality opponents all season.

With a weekend full of nationally-televised games, sold-out stadiums and the eyes of potential recruits glued to televisions, the ACC has a golden opportunity. It's time to stop letting these moments slip through battle-worn fingers and finally conquer some postseason demons.