College Baseball in North Carolina:

National-Best NCAA Tournament Bids,
Postseason Success Create “Golden Era”

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network
(Last updated June 13, 2024)

In the jewelry context, a diamond’s quality is reflected overwhelmingly by its “Four Cs” — carat, clarity, color and cut.

When it comes to high quality on the college baseball diamond, meanwhile, perhaps “BATT” is the best acronym:

• Bids (to the annual NCAA Baseball Championship)
• Appearances (in the NCAA Super Regionals)
• Trips (to the College World Series)
• Titles (national championships)

In that first category, over the last two years, nobody has been better than the state of North Carolina. In fact, nobody has even come close.

Most 2023/2024 NCAA Tournament Bids
(Two-Year Total; By State)

15—North Carolina
7—South Carolina

In 2023, the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket included a whopping eight in-state teams: Campbell, Charlotte, Duke, East Carolina, NC State, UNC, UNC Wilmington and Wake Forest. Those eight entries last year were the most in state history, for a competition first held in 1947, and they were two more than the next-most-represented state (Texas).

For comparison, the most bids the state has ever had in the similarly sized (68-team) NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is six, and even that has happened only twice (in 2002 and 2018).

This year, the NCAA baseball bracket opened with seven in-state teams: Duke, ECU, High Point, NC State, UNC, UNCW and Wake Forest. Again, that was the highest number for any state; only Louisiana, with six representatives, was in the same neighborhood this time.

Importantly, over the last eight years, North Carolina-based teams have become known for advancing in the NCAA Baseball Championship, too.

When the NCAA expanded its postseason baseball field to 64 teams and implemented its Super Regional format (eight best-of-three series played by the event’s “Sweet 16,” or regional winners) for the first time in 1999, the state of North Carolina advanced only 16 teams to Super Regionals in the first 18 years of that format (1999-2016).

In that same stretch, North Carolina had no representation in the 16-team NCAA Super Regionals in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015. In effect, during those six years, college baseball season in North Carolina was basically over by the end of May.

The past eight years have created a completely different — and much more fun — story.

Instead of averaging slightly less than one “Sweet 16” team per season, the state of North Carolina has averaged slightly more than two, and there hasn’t been a single season in that eight-year stretch (excluding the 2020 COVID year, when there was no NCAA Baseball Championship) without at least two in-state teams in the Super Regionals.

That may not sound like much of a change, but it’s an enormous difference —more than a doubling of the state’s presence in Super Regionals, which typically extend into mid-June.

NCAA Super Regional Participants
(2017-2024; NC-Based Teams Only)

2024—NC State*, UNC* (2)
2023—Duke, Wake Forest* (2)
2022—East Carolina, UNC (2)
2021—East Carolina, NC State* (2)
2020—(no NCAA Tournament/COVID)
2019—Duke, East Carolina, UNC (3 = most in state history)
2018—Duke, UNC* (2)
2017—Davidson, Wake Forest (2)
*—won Super Regional; advanced to College World Series

Such amazing progress leaves only one significant hole in the resume — just a single diamond-related blemish, if you will — for a state that has become such a prominent part of the NCAA baseball postseason: national championships.

The one and only North Carolina-based team ever to win the College World Series, Wake Forest, did so way back in 1955. That was so long ago that the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is now a 71-year-old league, had existed for only two years.

In another stunning sign from those dramatically different times, the Demon Deacons’ title-winning head coach, 47-year-old Taylor Sanford, resigned at midseason the following year (in January 1956), citing money matters and feelings of job insecurity. He never coached again.

This more modern North Carolina success story actually has been building for more than a decade.

UNC, whose 36 NCAA Baseball Championship bids are the most of any in-state program (find the complete list HERE), got this stitched ball rolling soon after the turn of the century.

Under legendary coach Mike Fox, the Tar Heels advanced to the College World Series six times in an eight-year period (2006-13) and seven times overall. In 2013, the state of North Carolina represented one-quarter of the eight-team CWS, with NC State joining the Tar Heels in Omaha.

To this point, 2013, 2018, 2019 and 2023 are probably the four greatest college baseball seasons in state history. “Golden Era,” indeed.

With the Tar Heels (hosting West Virginia) and the Wolfpack (visiting Georgia) still alive in this year’s Super Regionals, perhaps 2024 also will enter that conversation. UNC coach Scott Forbes is seeking his first College World Series trip as a head coach (he was there seven times as Fox’s assistant), and NC State coach Elliott Avent (pictured above) is seeking his third trip to Omaha.

In 2018, North Carolina-based teams collectively earned seven NCAA bids for the first time. As was the case again this year, UNC (#6), ECU (#12) and NC State (#16) earned three of the field’s 16 seeds, meaning the right to host a regional on their home field. Campbell, North Carolina A&T and UNCW claimed automatic bids as conference champions. UNC and Duke advanced to Super Regionals, and the Tar Heels returned to Omaha.

In 2019, when the state had six NCAA Tournament participants, North Carolina had three teams earn spots in the Super Regionals for the first (and still only) time. Duke, ECU and UNC all advanced in the Sweet 16, and the Pirates and Tar Heels served as Super Regional hosts, but all three teams were eliminated one step short of the CWS.

In 2023, North Carolina-based teams collectively earned eight NCAA bids for the first time. Duke and Wake Forest advanced to Super Regionals, and the Demon Deacons moved on to Omaha.

Whether this year’s Tar Heels and/or Wolfpack can find similar levels of NCAA postseason success in the coming days and weeks remains to be seen, but — once again — it’s been fun to see so many high-quality candidates take on such exciting challenges.

College World Series Trips
(NC Division One Programs Only)
School, Conference — Trips (Most Recent)

North Carolina, ACC — 12 (2024)
NC State, ACC — 4 (2024)
Duke, ACC — 3 (1961)
Wake Forest, ACC — 3 (2023)

College World Series Titles
(NC Division One Programs Only)
School, Conference — Titles

Wake Forest, ACC — 1 (1955)