Towson's improbable baseball season will continue in the North Carolina regional of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers (29-28) will face Florida Atlantic (39-20), winner of the Sun Belt Conference championship, on Friday at 1 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
It's Towson's first trip to the NCAAs since 1991 and its third overall.
"We have a pretty good group of players," Towson coach Mike Gottlieb said in a news release. "Going into the CAA Tournament, I knew that if we played the way I know we could play, we would have a chance. All season long, this was a group that was focused on winning. They were determined not to let any distractions keep them from reaching their goal."
The 52-8 Tar Heels, No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, will face Canisius (42-15) on Friday at 8 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium, UNC's home field.
The NCAA tournament field was announced Monday. Defending champion Arizona (34-21) was left out of the tournament. Two other CAA teams, William & Mary (37-22) and UNC-Wilmington (37-21), were selected as at-large teams in the NCAA tournament.
Just two months ago it looked like this season would be Towson's last as the school dropped the sport, along with men's soccer, to meet budget and Title IX requirements. But the governor, then the legislature, stepped in to ensure the sport would continue if the school can match the state's funding.
But the Tigers also wanted to make this season memorable on the field. That came Saturday when the fourth-seeded Towson won the CAA Tournament to earn the conference's automatic NCAA bid. Senior right-hander Mike Volpe pitched his first career complete game in a 5-2 victory over second-seeded William & Mary in Harrisonburg, Va.
"When we came into the CAA Tournament, the only thing I said was that we had beaten every team in this tournament so we could win some games," Gottlieb said. "But we had also lost to every team in the tournament. I thought it was significant that we beat both UNC Wilmington and William & Mary in the regular season. We took two of three games from each team and they were the top two seeds.
"After we beat UNCW in the tournament, I noticed a real change within the team. All of a sudden, the mindset seemed to be that we were going to win this thing. I could see it in their body language. They were determined that we were going to win the championship."
Florida Atlantic won its first Sun Belt conference tournament with a 16-8 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday. The Owls went undefeated in the tournament, winning all four of their games.