UNC Baseball Seeks Elusive NCAA Championship;
Will Tar Heels’ Preseason Goal Become Reality?

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

About five months ago, before the start of the 2024 college baseball season, various preseason rankings pegged North Carolina as a Top 25-caliber team but not necessarily one of the favorites, either nationally or in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Both the Baseball America and D1 Baseball preseason polls had Wake Forest (preseason #1), Clemson and Duke as the top ACC contenders. Four teams in the Southeastern Conference — Arkansas, Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt — joined the Demon Deacons atop the national rankings back in January.

Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels saw themselves differently.

“The first team meeting this year, we just said, ‘Hey, our goal is to win a national championship,’” said fourth-year UNC head coach Scott Forbes, who has been with the Tar Heels since 1999. “Let’s get it out of the way.”

Now that the Tar Heels have officially returned to the College World Series, that elusive goal again seems within their reach, and it certainly remains on their minds.

“The goal wasn’t just to get there,” All-American center fielder Vance Honeycutt said Saturday, after Carolina defeated West Virginia in a Super Regional matchup in Chapel Hill. “It was to win it.”

That won’t be easy.

When the Tar Heels open College World Series play against Virginia on Friday (2 pm, ESPN), they will do so as part of one of the most loaded fields in the history of the event, which has been an eight-team bracket since 1950.

In a CWS rarity, each of the NCAA Baseball Championship’s top four seeds — #1 Tennessee (55-12), #2 Kentucky (45-14), #3 Texas A&M (49-13) and #UNC (47-14)— is still alive. So are #8 Florida State (47-15), #10 NC State (38-21) and #12 Virginia (46-15). Only Florida (34-28) made it to Omaha as an unseeded team, but even the Gators have plenty of talent, as their top-five national projection in the preseason polls suggested.

Interestingly, of the eight programs represented in Omaha this year, only two have ever claimed the NCAA baseball championship. Virginia won it all in 2015, and Florida turned the trick in 2017. Everyone else, including UNC, is seeking a first-in-program-history experience.

Florida State and UNC have particularly interesting — and particularly painful — histories with the College World Series.

Just as East Carolina carries the frustrating title of “Most NCAA Tournament Bids Without A CWS Trip,” with 34, the Seminoles hold the maddening record for “Most CWS Trips Without A National Championship.” This year marks the Seminoles’ 24th trip to Omaha. The next schools on that no-titles list are Clemson and UNC, with 12 CWS appearances each.

Most CWS Trips Without A Title
Visits—School, Conference

24—Florida State*, ACC
12—Clemson, ACC
12—North Carolina*, ACC
11—Arkansas, SEC
10—Northern Colorado, Summit
8—Texas A&M*, SEC

*—2024 CWS participant

UNC, of course, is representing a school that has been known as the “University of National Champions” for decades. American sports fans are well aware of the Tar Heels’ prominence in men’s basketball, for example, a sport in which Carolina has captured six NCAA titles and countless other accolades.

That national championship theme is omnipresent throughout UNC’s athletic department. The school sponsors 28 varsity sports, and more than half of them — including baseball — have spent a lot of time in the national spotlight.

UNC’s 11 previous appearances (1960, 1966, 1978, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2018) in the College World Series included back-to-back trips to the championship series, which matches the two four-team-bracket survivors in a best-of-three format. Those came against Oregon State in 2006 and 2007 under legendary coach Mike Fox, who took the Tar Heels to Omaha seven times overall.

There is, however, a big difference between competing for — or coming close to — NCAA titles and actually winning one, and UNC baseball is not yet a member of the NCAA Title Club.

Nobody in the ACC comes close (see below) to UNC’s 50 all-time NCAA team championships. Only seven schools nationally have more, led by Stanford (136!), which will become an ACC member this summer.

Eight UNC programs have reached the promised land in their respective sports with at least one NCAA team title: men’s basketball, women’s basketball, field hockey, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s tennis.

Fourteen UNC head coaches, including six who remain active with the Tar Heels, have joined the NCAA Title Club while working in Chapel Hill.

That’s a lot of legendary teams and coaches, each with unforgettable stories to tell.

Of course, there’s always room for one more.

NCAA Team Championships
(ACC Schools Only)

50—North Carolina
24—Notre Dame
12—Florida State
10—Wake Forest
7—Boston College
5—NC State
1—Georgia Tech
0—Virginia Tech

NOTE: Totals do not include individual (rather than team) national championships or team titles in sports/events whose championships were not sponsored by the NCAA (e.g., top-level college football, AIAW national championships).

UNC’s 50 NCAA Team Championships
(By Sport)

21—Women’s soccer
11—Field hockey
6—Men’s basketball
5—Men’s lacrosse
3—Women’s lacrosse
2—Men’s soccer
1—Women’s basketball
1—Women’s tennis

(By Head Coach)

21—Anson Dorrance*, women’s soccer (1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012)
10—Karen Shelton, field hockey (1989, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2007, 2009, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022)
3—Jenny Levy*, women’s lacrosse (2013, 2016, 2022)
3—Willie Scroggs, men’s lacrosse (1981, 1982, 1986)
3—Roy Williams, men’s basketball (2005, 2009, 2017)
2—Dean Smith, men’s basketball (1982, 1993)
1—Elmar Bolowich, men’s soccer (2001)
1—Joe Breschi*, men’s lacrosse (2016)
1—Sylvia Hatchell, women’s basketball (1994)
1—Brian Kalbas*, women’s tennis (2023)
1—Dave Klarmann, men’s lacrosse (1991)
1—Erin Matson*, field hockey (2023)
1—Frank McGuire, men’s basketball (1957)
1—Carlos Somoano*, men’s soccer (2011)