Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 6/14/13
The College World Series in Omaha is a big enough stage for any team. Theres already more than enough pressure. But now, two in-state rivals have to face off in their respective opening games ... against each other. Stakes? Raised. Pressure? Ratcheted up. North Carolina (57-10) and N.C. State (49-14) will play each other for the fourth time this season and the second time this postseason. The rivals have faced off against each other for over 100 years, and both have built storied college basketball traditions along Tobacco Road. But theyve never met in the NCAA Tournament. Until now. Its not the same as college basketball, obviously. And the winner of Sundays game might be able to advance anyway, since its a double elimination tournament. Theres even a chance that the two teams could meet again with elimination on the line. But for right now, its as big a game imaginable for these two teams. UNCs Colin Moran can be kind of deadpan when talking to the media. But immediately after the Super Regional Game 3 win, he was asked about the importance of facing their first opponent in the College World Series: Do you know who youre playing? a UNC spokesman asked him. Uh, yeah, Moran said, sending the room into hysterics. It seems like every time we play (N.C. State), its a close game, Moran added. Its a lot of fun. I think its just good for the state of North Carolina to be on a national stage with (N.C. State). The series this year in Raleigh was supposed to be epic. And it was ... fine. But it was abbreviated by rain (North Carolina won Game 1, N.C. State won Game 2 and Game 3 was rained out.) Each team that won did so relatively convincingly. There were some great performances, sure. But no close games; no rubber match. When the two met in the ACC Tournament with a trip to the championship game on the line, the pregame intensity increased even more. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was packed full of fans from both teams (it set an in-state record for attendance) and the game did not disappoint. Eighteen innings later, the Tar Heels eked out a 2-1 win. That one wasnt always pretty either, but the intensity was evident. And each teams pitching staff had a dominant performance, led by N.C. States Carlos Rodon who allowed one hit in ten innings in an utterly masterful performance. Oh, and Rodon will be the one starting on Sunday against the Tar Heels. Its no fun playing N.C. State when Carlos Rodon is on the mound, UNC head coach Mike Fox said. The familiarity with each other is both a blessing and a curse. The rivalry aspect combined with the pressure of the postseason could make for a sloppy game, one where players make mistakes that they wouldnt normally make. But at the very least, they know the tendencies of the other teams players. This will be UNCs third time facing Rodon this year (fifth since 2012 for many Tar Heel batters) and it will be the third time most of N.C. State's players have seen UNC starter Kent Emanuel. But the two teams have taken different paths to get to Omaha since the 18-inning instant classic on May 25. The Tar Heels might be the No. 1 overall seed, but they arent exactly rolling. They flirted with elimination in both the Regional and Super Regional rounds, needing comebacks in both elimination games to stay alive. UNCs starting pitching has struggled, and normally reliable hitters like Moran and Skye Bolt have as well. But UNC keeps finding a way. And the Tar Heels are in very familiar territory literally. UNC is making its sixth trip to Omaha in eight years, and there are quite a few players on the roster who played in 2011, the last time UNC was in the CWS. N.C. State, on the other hand, has lost just four times since March 31 (twice to North Carolina) and just once since the postseason began (again, in 18 innings to North Carolina). The Wolfpack have won in almost every way imaginable in the NCAA Tournament, too. The teams certainly have that grittiness in common, which is what makes the lead-up to this game so exciting. Both teams have managed to come up with the big hit or make the key defensive play to win close games, no matter how improbably. But something has to give. I think we kind of like playing each other. Its a great rivalry, N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent said on Friday. Its intense, but its not hated. Its not as hated as people think. The games have been so good, and theyve been clean games, and both teams can really, really play. Its a huge competition. This is N.C. States first trip to the College World Series since 1968. It would be easy for the players to get wide-eyed in Omaha amidst the media hubbub. Theres a balance between savoring the experience and getting ready to play, but its hard to play well if youre tight or anxious. This team has had fun all year, so this week wont be any different. Avent said that his team played a game of pickup wiffle ball against a Colorado Little League team outside the hotel Thursday night, and they rode bicycles with baskets on the front around Omaha like Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz. He wants them to enjoy the experience, no matter what. So far, they have. Our players, I dont know if Ive seen a wow factor, but I think the smile got a little wider. ... They smiled since we got on the charter in Raleigh, and I think it just grew as we got here, Avent said. Theyre having the time of their life.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Philip Rivers on 0-2 start: ‘There’s no worry or concern’

NFL players wrote Roger Goodell seeking support for political activism

On the similarities between Kyrie Irving and Kobe Bryant

Tickets for 49ers-Rams game at Levi's going for $14

Sixers still open to trading Jahlil Okafor

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Aaron Rodgers has funny quote on never beating the Bengals

Raul Mondesi sentenced to prison for corruption as mayor in Dominican Republic

WATCH: Youth football coaches engage in ugly brawl

Richard Sherman critical of NFL injury report: It is for gamblers

Adidas hooked Giannis Antetokounmpo up with an entire truck full of sneakers

Carmelo Anthony trade rumors suggest he’s headed to the Rockets soon

NFL Week 3 predictions

The 'MLB is as powerful as ever' quiz

After a decade in the WNBA, MVP Sylvia Fowles is ready for the spotlight

College football 2017 Week 4 predictions

10 teams that can unseat the Warriors in 2018

NFL Referee Hotline: Mike McCarthy is sick of these calls

The 'Kevin Durant has mad (Twitter) handles' quiz

Baseball's most underwhelming teams of 2017

The 'Remember the tight ends' quiz

Ranking the best college football fan bases

Getaway Day: Time runs short as postseason nears

Sports & Politics Intersect: White House sticks it to sports

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

NFL Week 3 predictions

After a decade in the WNBA, MVP Sylvia Fowles is ready for the spotlight

The 'MLB is as powerful as ever' quiz

10 teams that can unseat the Warriors in 2018

College football 2017 Week 4 predictions

NFL Referee Hotline: Mike McCarthy is sick of these calls

Baseball's most underwhelming teams of 2017

The 'Kevin Durant has mad (Twitter) handles' quiz

Ranking the best college football fan bases

The 'Remember the tight ends' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker