Chapel Hill, N.C. • North Carolina carried a No. 1 ranking nearly all year along with the expectation of returning to the College World Series.
It turned out the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament would have to fight though all kinds of trouble deficits, mistakes, bullpen-taxing games to reach that goal.
Colin Moran hit an RBI triple in a three-run sixth inning and staff ace Kent Emanuel picked up his first career save by getting the final two outs to help UNC beat South Carolina 5-4 on Tuesday.
By winning the decisive third game of the weather-delayed super regional series, the Tar Heels (57-10) secured their sixth trip to Omaha in eight seasons.
It also capped a stressful two weekends of NCAA play, from a 13-inning comeback win against Florida Atlantic in the final game of the Chapel Hill Regional to the pair of one-run wins against the Gamecocks (43-20).
"It doesn't really matter how you get there," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "Baseball's a tough game, you never know how it's going to go. At the end of the day, we're going, so that's the most important thing."
North Carolina will open CWS play Sunday against in-state and Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina State.
College World Series openers
Saturday • Mississippi St. vs. Oregon St., 1 p.m., ESPN2• Indiana vs. Louisville, 6 p.m., ESPN Sunday • NC State vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m., ESPN2• UCLA vs. LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN2