N.C. State and North Carolina have met every year on the diamond since 1918. That streak was in jeopardy when the ACC did not schedule the rivals to meet in the regular season and a midweek, nonconference game was rained out. The two teams will meet after all, and the winner receives a brutal reward.
The Pack (32-22, 13-17) dropped their final regular season game at Virginia Tech to finish 10th in the ACC standings. UNC (32-23, 15-15), who like State has suffered a disappointing season after reaching the College World Series a year ago, was shutout, 2-0, in its regular season finale at Miami and settled at seventh in the league standings. With the addition of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to the conference, the ACC expanded the tournament field from eight to 10 teams. The top six teams in the league are guaranteed a spot in the ACC's round robin tournament, but teams 7-10 have to win a play-in game to participate. The Pack and Heels square off in the 10-7 game. Wake Forest (30-25, 15-15) gets the eight seed and will take on nine-seed Georgia Tech (32-24, 14-16).
Losing the season finale against the Hokies is unfortunate not necessarily because it ends up in a potential doom scenario of having the Heels end the Pack's season, but because the winner enters the pool of death. The 7-10 game winner joins Virginia (RPI #1), Florida State (RPI #2), and Maryland (RPI #31) for pool play. State did not play Virginia this season but went 0-6 against the Noles and Terps. Had State closed the season with a win over Virginia Tech, it would have won a tiebreaker with Georgia Tech (thus getting the nine seed), faced a Wake team it beat two out of three in the regular season, and, with a win, joined a stout but less intimidating pool with Miami, Duke, and Clemson.
Both the Pack and the Heels are bubble teams for the NCAA tournament (though UNC has the slight edge in résumé thanks to a .500 mark in the difficult ACC), so the ACC tournament play-in game could be an elimination game in more ways than one. State is playing better of late, having closed the season on a 10-3 run. UNC is 5-5 in its last 10 games. Tuesday's first pitch is slated for the ungodly early hour of 11 a.m. (bye bye work productivity) at NewBridge Bank ballpark in Jim Boeheim's adopted home town of Greensboro.