March 20, 2010
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Fourth-ranked Florida State (14-3, 2-2 ACC) erased a three-run deficit with a little late inning heroics to claim a 4-3 victory over 17th-ranked North Carolina (14-5, 1-3 ACC) Friday night inside Boshamer Stadium. The Seminoles scored two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to get back to .500 in league play on the year.
For the third time in the last four meetings between these two schools, Florida State used a ninth inning comeback to claim victory. In fact, this series has been so closely contested that 14 of the last 27 games have been decided by one run with the Seminoles winning 11 of those games.
“We are playing a team that has accomplished more in the last four years than probably any other team in the nation,” said head coach Mike Martin. “That’s the way we look at it, that’s a very good baseball team over there and we just happened to get some breaks tonight. I am very proud of the way our guys hung in there tonight. We kept our poise and never stopped fighting.
“You might just routinely say that we were lucky tonight; there are no two ways about it,” added Martin. “We were just very lucky tonight. I know exactly how they feel because last Saturday night we had a five-run lead in the ninth inning, so I know how they feel.”
With the Seminoles trailing 3-2 entering the ninth, Justin Gonzalez got things going with a one out base hit back up the middle. He would score all the way from first for the game tying run on a double to the gap in right center off the bat of Jayce Boyd. UNC put together a nice relay combination to have a play at the plate, but Gonzalez slid in safely as Tar Heel catcher Jacob Stalling could not hold on to the ball for the out.
The Seminoles then loaded the bases as Tyler Holt drew a walk and James Ramsey was hit by a pitch. Following the second Tar Heel pitching change of the inning, Boyd scored the game-winning run as Michael Morin unloaded on a wild pitch on his first delivery to the plate.
Mike McGee pitched the ninth and retired the Heels in order to pick-up his first collegiate save. The junior right hander got some defensive help from Boyd at first, who came up with a nice back handed catch on a line drive off the bat of Levi Michael for the second out of the evening. Boyd then registered the final out of the game making a catch in foul ground on a fly ball off the bat of Jesse Wierzbicki.
“It was kind of nerve racking,” said McGee on earning his first collegiate save. “I got a little behind on the first guy, but just started to focus in on making sure I did not walk anybody. I was going to throw strikes regardless, if they were going to get runs, they were going to have hit for it. But it was exciting; to be put in this situation is just so much fun.”
The win by the Garnet and Gold spoiled a fantastic outing by North Carolina starter Matt Harvey, who did not factor in the decision on Friday night. The junior right hander threw seven shutout innings as he allowed just two hits and walked four, while tying a season-high with 11 strikeouts. It marked the fourth time in Harvey’s career that he reached double-digit strikeouts in a start.
“Oh my gosh, he struck out 11 batters, 10 plays had to be made behind him,” said Martin on the performance of UNC’s Harvey. He struck out the rest of them, 10 plays had to be made. That is a credit to him and you might say he deserved to win. And that’s the silly thing about this game…it’s the greatest game in the world.”
Florida State’s Sean Gilmartin was just as impressive as the sophomore southpaw went six plus innings allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits as he walked three and struck out five.
Five members of the Seminole bullpen combined to work three scoreless, hitless innings to keep FSU in the game. Scott Sitz (1-0) worked a perfect eighth to pick-up the win, his first collegiate victory, while setting the stage for McGee to earn the save in the ninth.
With Harvey out of the game to start the eighth, Boyd found the hole in between short and third on the first offering from Jimmy Messer for the first of his two hits on the night. Holt followed with an infield single and Ramsey drew a walk to load the bases. With two outs, McGee drove in the first FSU run of the game on an infield hit to short. Ryan Graepel made an outstanding diving play to get to the ball and instead of holding on to the ball, threw wildly over to third in an attempt to get the final out of the inning. The ball rolled to the back stop and with both the pitcher and catcher going to retrieve the ball, it left no one covering home allowing Holt to scamper home to cut the Tar Heel lead to 3-2.
“Harvey threw awesome,” said McGee. “He is a great pitcher, throws the ball well and is just a tough guy to hit. But we knew if we could get him out of the game that we would have a chance to win this thing. We kept our poise and just kept fighting.”
Both Boyd and McGee led the Noles with two hits a piece, while Holt, Gonzalez and Rafael Lopez each registered a hit.
After issuing consecutive walks to Holt and Ramsey to start the game, UNC starter Matt Harvey found his command to strike out the next three batters that he faced to get out of the early jam.
The Tar Heels took advantage of a Seminole error in the bottom of the first to grab the early lead. Tommy Coyle reached on an infield single to first and moved to second following a fielding error by Stephen Cardullo at short on a groundball off the bat of Michael. After a double steal, Wierzbicki laced a two-run double to left center to give UNC a 2-0 lead. The damage could have been worse as the Tar Heels proceeded to load the bases with one out, but Gilmartin got Dillion Hazlett looking on strikes and Mike Cavasinni to fly out to left to keep the deficit at two.
Lopez registered the first Seminole hit of the game in the third but was quickly erased from the base paths as Holt grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
UNC put runners at the corners in the fourth with two outs but Gilmartin got Michael to fly out to center to keep the deficit at two. Cavasinni led off the inning with a single back up the middle and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bryn Renner. Following a walk to Bunting, Coyle hit into a fielder’s choice groundout at second with Gonzalez’ only option to tag Bunting going to second.
Gilmartin left a Tar Heels runner stranded at third in the sixth to keep UNC’s lead at 2-0. Cavasinni led off the inning with a double to the gap in right center and advanced to third on Renner’s second sacrifice bunt of the evening. But the Seminole southpaw got Bunting to fly out to short left and then Coyle to fly out to center to end the inning.
A single by McGee to leadoff the top of the seventh went to no avail as Harvey continued his dominance on the mound. The junior right hander sandwiched a fly out between a pair of strikeouts to keep the Seminoles off the scoreboard.
Back-to-back hits by the Tar Heels to start the seventh ended the evening for Gilmartin. Tye Buckley was first out of the bullpen for the Seminoles and walked left handed hitting Brian Goodwin on four pitches. Martin went to the bullpen for the second time in the inning calling on Daniel Bennett and the submarine right hander recorded the first out of the inning by getting Graepel to fly out to center. The ball was hit far enough to bring home Michael from third to push the UNC lead to 3-0. Bennett then registered a big out as he picked off Goodwin at first for the second out of the inning. The Tallahassee native faked the throw to third and then went to first catching Goodwin off guard and in a run down with Cardullo applying the tag for the out. With a left handed hitter approaching the plate, Martin once again went to the bullpen calling on southpaw Robby Scott for his first appearance as a Seminole. Fox countered with another pinch hitter, this time sending right handed hitting Chaz Frank to the plate. Scott got Frank swinging on strikes to end the inning.
The Seminoles and Tar Heels will meet in game two of the series on Saturday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m. inside Boshamer Stadium. Fans can listen in locally on 100.7 FM and on the web at Seminoles.com. The game will be shown live over the internet courtesy of Tar Heels All-Access.