CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Auburn baseball arrived in North Carolina this week with a mission in mind and making glances up to the sky — knowing, at Super Regionals, the Tigers might as well be against the world.
Auburn (36-25) challenges North Carolina (45-17) in a best-of-three NCAA Tournament series set to start today at 11 a.m. CT the Tar Heels’ home Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The game is set to be televised on ESPN2. Game 2 is set for Sunday and Game 3 would be played Monday.
North Carolina enters riding an seven-game winning streak, with all those wins coming in the postseason as the team powered its way to a title in a perfect ACC Tournament run before sweeping its host regional in Chapel Hill.
The MLB’s 31st overall draft pick Michael Busch leads a powerful Tar Heels batting order while 66th overall pick Tyler Baum fronts the team’s bullpen.
The Tigers, too, are keeping an eye on the sky and the weather. Forecasts call for rain for much of the weekend. If a series winner isn’t decided by the end of Tuesday, the tournament’s higher-seeded team, North Carolina, would advance to next week’s College World Series.
Of course, this week before the team headed off to Chapel Hill and surely even now on the UNC campus, Auburn’s focus has been on the Tar Heels and what the Tigers will see on the diamond.
“They’re going to be a lineup that’s going to compete,” Auburn pitcher Jack Owen said Wednesday.
Owen is set to start for the Tigers in the series opener today.
“What we’ve got to do is make sure that we execute our pitches and do everything we can to keep the ball in the yard,” Owen said.
Sunday’s Game 2 is set for a 10:30 a.m. CT start, on ESPN. The series’ Game 3, if necessary, is set for noon CT Monday. It would be broadcast on ESPN2.
After Owen, Auburn is set to start Bailey Horn on the mound in Game 2 on Sunday.
North Carolina advanced to Supers with three wins in three days at its host Chapel Hill Regional last weekend.
Auburn won the Atlanta Regional in similar fashion in three games.
The series winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“It was really special for us as a team,” Horn said, “knowing what we’ve been through this year, and knowing what our goal’s been all year, which is to make it to Omaha.
“And we get the opportunity to play for it this weekend going into Chapel Hill.”
After the regional round, the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament whittled down to 16 regional winners like Auburn and North Carolina. Those teams cross in a series of best-of-three Super Regionals to find the eight teams moving on to Omaha.