UNC, NC State, ECU and Duke can make college baseball history. Here’s how

North Carolina, East Carolina, N.C. State and Duke have never played in the NCAA baseball tournament in the same year.

That will almost certainly change next month with all four teams ranked in the top 25 of the RPI and all in the the top 15 in one national poll.

The four teams will get together on Tuesday night in what could wind up being a preview of the Super Regional round, or heck, a College World Series preview. That’s how good of a season it has been for those four in-state teams.

UNC and N.C. State will meet at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) while Duke will host ECU on campus at Jack Coombs Field (6 p.m.). The four teams will meet 12 times over the next month. ECU already has series win over the Tar Heels under its belt.

The game at the DBAP on Tuesday between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels is actually a nonconference matchup. The two will have their regularly-scheduled ACC series starting on April 27 in Raleigh.

The Wolfpack and Blue Devils will get together for a three-game set this weekend in Durham. Duke will also host the Heels starting on May 11. ECU and N.C. State will meet for the only time this season on April 24.

A look at all four teams and their success this season:

North Carolina

Record: 24-12 (12-6 ACC)

RPI: No. 8

Highest ranking: No. 15 (D1baseball.com)

Best series win: at Miami

Strength: Resiliency. The Tar Heels opened the season with five losses in their first eight games. They were just 5-4 in ACC play heading into the last weekend of March. Since then, they’ve caught fire, winning three straight conference series and 10 of 12 games overall.

Their offense has been good. Their 7.1 runs per game is second-best in the ACC. Third baseman Kyle Datres is second in the ACC in batting average (.368) and first baseman Michael Busch is second in the ACC with 43 RBIs.

Weakness: As good as the bullpen has been for coach Mike Fox, led by senior righty Brett Daniels (6-0, 1.11 earned run average), the starting pitching has taken a hit with the injury of sophomore Luca Dalatri. There is a chance Dalatri, who has been dealing with arm issues, could finish the year but without him UNC’s third starter, behind Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner, has been hit or miss.

East Carolina

Record: 26-9 (5-4 American Athletic)

RPI: No. 10

Highest ranking: No. 11 (Baseball America)

Best series win: UNC

Strength: Pitching and defense. The Pirates rank in the top 10 nationally in fielding percentage and walks allowed. Starters Chris Holba (8-0, 1.52 ERA) and Tyler Smith (5-1, 1.44 ERA) have been dynamic at the top of the rotation. Left fielder/designated hitter Bryant Packard leads the team in batting (.402), home runs (nine) and RBIs (32).

Weakness: Keeping everyone healthy. Packard has been playing through back pain and has missed six games. Injuries have cost shortstop Turner Brown (shoulder) 12 games and outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton (wrist) 15. The Pirates’ lineup doesn’t have the depth to withstand nagging injury problems.

N.C. State

Record: 28-7 (13-5 ACC)

RPI: No. 21

Highest ranking: No. 2 (Baseball America)

Best series win: at Clemson

Strength: The Wolfpack offense leads the ACC, and ranks in the top 10 nationally, in nearly every category. N.C. State leads the ACC in scoring (7.7 runs per game), home runs (54), batting average (.304) and slugging percentage (.489). Left fielder Brett Kinneman leads the ACC in home runs (13) and RBIs (45). Center fielder Josh McLain leads the ACC in hits (56). Senior ace Brian Brown has the ACC’s best ERA (1.09) and a 5-0 record.

Weakness: The starting pitching behind Brown has to hold up. N.C. State has lost the opening game of its last four ACC series. And while fifth-year senior Joe O’Donnell has been outstanding out of the bullpen, the Wolfpack relies on inexperienced arms to eat up innings. The younger relievers will have to prove they can handle the pressure of the postseason.

Duke

Record: 30-7 (12-5 ACC)

RPI: No. 22

Highest ranking: No. 8 (Baseball America)

Best series win: at Florida State

Strength: Another old-fashioned, pitching-and-defense kind of team. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in ERA (3.31) and rank in the top 10 national in fielding percentage and double plays. They are also among the ACC leaders in stolen bases. Left fielder Jimmy Herron leads the team with 15 steals and leads the ACC in runs (39).

Weakness: Herron and first baseman Joey Loperfido are the only two lineup regulars hitting above .300. Griffin Conine, son of former major-leaguer Jeff Conine, is one of the few bats in the lineup with pop.

Upcoming schedule

The four teams will meet 12 times over the next month:

Tuesday

ECU at Duke, 6 p.m.

UNC vs. N.C. State (at DBAP), 6:30 p.m.

Friday

N.C. State at Duke, 6 p.m.

Saturday

N.C. State at Duke, 1 p.m.

Sunday

N.C. State at Duke, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, April 24

ECU at N.C. State, 6 p.m.

Friday, April 27

UNC at N.C. State, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 28

UNC at N.C. State, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 29

UNC at N.C. State, 1 p.m.

Friday, May 11

UNC at Duke (at DBAP), 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 12

UNC at Duke (at DBAP), 1 p.m.

Sunday, May 13

UNC at Duke (at DBAP), 1 p.m.

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