College Baseball: Wierzbicki, UNC ready to make run at title

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North Carolina senior Jesse Wierzbicki (right) hopes to lead the No. 3-national seed Tar Heels into next week's Super Regionals.

By STUART CROSBY stuart@newnan.com Last season, former Newnan Cougar Jesse Wierzbicki and the North Carolina Tar Heels narrowly qualified for the 2010 NCAA baseball postseason, but eventually got the opportunity of extending their season. The Tar Heels participated in the regional tournament in Norman, Okla., but saw the season come to an end as they were eliminated in three games.
This year is a different story as Wierzbicki and the Tar Heels will be the host team for the Chapel Hill regional tournament and will face Maine tonight at 6 p.m. "It feels good to be going back to the NCAA's. We were the last team to be selected last year and it was tough to wait for the decision," he said about the return engagement. "This year is different for us because we are third seed (nationally) and can relax a little bit." Florida International and James Madison are the other teams looking to advance in this weekend's double elimination tournament. This weekend's champion advances to one of 16 two-team Super Regionals, which will take on best-of-three formats at eight host sites. The eight finalists advance to the NCAA College World Series at the new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. Georgia Tech, whose roster includes former Northgate star pitcher Conner Kendrick, is also hosting a four-team regional in Atlanta starting today. Wierzbicki has reached the NCAA Regionals during both of his years with the Tar Heels since transferring from Walters State Community College. "I think we have a good shot in the regional," he said. "We are the number one seed in the regional and are playing at home. Hopefully we can get far and get to the college world series." Wierzbicki and his teammates are coming off the ACC tournament where they finished third behind Virginia and Florida State who are also hosting regionals tonight. During the ACC tournament, Wierzbicki had a productive weekend from an individual standpoint was 3-for-8 with five runs scored and a pair of RBI along with being named to the all-tournament team during a week filled with rain-delayed games, some that were played into the wee hours of the night. Going into the regional tournament game tonight against the Black Bears, Wierzbicki is now hitting .297 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. "Overall, I thought we played well in the ACC Tournament. Our pitching was great but we didn't get the big hit." he said. "We also played at strange times like at midnight against Wake Forest because it rained a lot and that hurt us a little." While disappointed with the final result of the ACC Tournament Wierzbicki felt playing has helped get the Tar Heels ready for tonight. "Last year we didn't play in the tournament and that hurt us because we didn't play for 11 days before we went to Oklahoma," he explained. "This year we played three games and we were able to get our pitching set and keep sharp." While he plans to focus on the task of helping the Tar Heels advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, Wierzbicki's future is in limbo with the possibility of either being drafted or completing his final semester at UNC on the list. "I am hopeful a team will pick me and give me a chance," he said. "I am going to do what I can. I know that God has a plan for me and all I can do is go along for the ride."


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