Brett Freidlander is generally one of the more reliable folks covering the ACC, and in particular, State. Just check out the difference between his take and Caulton Tudor’s earlier this week.
But while Baseball America magazine confirmed that back in February when it featured both the Wolfpack and Tar Heels on the cover of its college baseball preview edition, the fact of the matter is that State is still in the process of playing catchup with UNC.
The gap is still sizeable when it comes to facilities, though that might change thanks to success of Aventâ€™s current team. But despite six trips to the CWS in the last eight years by coach Mike Foxâ€™s Tar Heels, the disparity on the field of play is shrinking rapidly.
And yet, for all it has already accomplished, the Wolfpack still has one major hurdle to clear when it comes to competing on equal terms with UNC.
Beating the Tar Heels head-to-head in a game that means something.
State came close last May in Greensboro, when ace Carlos Rodon shut out UNC over nine innings at the ACC tournament. But the Wolfpack wasted the opportunity by not being able to score any runs itself before losing both the game and a shot at the league title in 12 innings.
The fact that the Tar Heels again denied Rodon and State under eerily similar circumstances at this yearâ€™s tournament last month only worsened the sting. Thatâ€™s why State is so excited about getting another shot at UNC, even if it means having to share the spotlight in Omaha with its hated rival.
Brian Holberton, 10, and the Tar Heels are making their sixth CWS appearance in the last eight years
â€œIt definitely is meaningful because we owe them another game,â€ senior first baseman Tarran Senay said. â€œWe owe them our best. Itâ€™s going to be tough, but itâ€™s going to be fun. Itâ€™s a big one.â€
So big, that even the usually business-like Tar Heels canâ€™t help but get caught up in the hype.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a big circus,â€ UNC catcher Brian Holberton said, who like teammate Moran, didnâ€™t need to be reminded who his teamâ€™s next opponent is. â€œWeâ€™re 30 miles apart and weâ€™re going all the way to Omaha. Theyâ€™re our biggest rivals out there and we play each other in the first game, so it will be fun.â€