April 2, 2006
Chapel Hill, NC – Yesterday the top ranked Seminoles let one get away late in the game versus the sixth-ranked Tar Heels. Sunday FSU made sure history did not repeat itself. In a game that featured four lead changes and three ties, the Seminoles continually answered the bell as the bullpen came through and Tony Thomas, Jr. drove the offense in a 6-5 FSU victory. The win moved FSU to 27-4 with a league-best 9-3 mark. With the loss Carolina fell to 23-6 and 7-5 in the ACC.
“I am very proud,” said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin. “This was a real gut check. I was very proud of the way we played. We got key hits, we got outstanding middle relief pitching, it was a game that we really needed. I am very proud that our guys got it done.”
After watching a two-run lead disappear in the ninth inning yesterday due to back-to-back two out errors, FSU was tested in a close game once again. The Tar Heels came back from deficits of 4-3 and 5-4 and put the potential tying run in scoring position with one away in the eighth. Senior Matt DiBlasi came in and caught the runner trying to steal third and then turned the game over to Luke Tucker who pitched a perfect ninth.
“Yesterday was a tough loss and everybody was kind of hanging their heads,” said DiBlasi. “I told the team after the game that we can either hide in our shell or come out tomorrow and show them that we are the No. 1 team in the nation. Everybody picked each other up today. On the mound, in the field, at the plate if one guy didn’t get it done the next guy came up right behind him and did. This is probably the biggest win we’ve had so far this season.”
“Yesterday we came out fighting we just didn’t have enough to get it done,” said Thomas. “Today we were determined not to let them sweep us. Today wasn’t just about hurting our goals for the season but pride as well.”
FSU’s six runs were twice as many as the team scored in the first two games of the series. Seven different Seminoles came up with hits on Sunday but none was bigger than Thomas. The sophomore, who was involved in one of the ninth inning errors Saturday, drove in three runs on a double and a triple. His first hit was a two run triple that he scored on thanks to an error with FSU trailing 3-1. His double came in the seventh and put FSU up 6-5 as he plated the eventual winning run.
“Twice I came up with runners in scoring position and I was just trying to hit it hard and put the ball in play,” said Thomas. “This was the first big road series of the year for us and we had to fight. We showed a lot of character today as a team. They beat us twice but we did not roll over and quit. We are strong and we are not going to let anybody walk all over us. I was glad this was a close game and we proved we could fight and get a win over a quality team like North Carolina.”
Barret Browning started the game and went 4 2/3. He turned the ball over to the bullpen as the FSU relievers went 4 1/3 allowing just one run and two hits the rest of the way. Brent Marsh improved to 2-1 as he picked up the win while Tucker locked up the game picking up his sixth save of the season.
“That was an outstanding job by DiBlasi, Tucker and Marsh,” said Martin. “I thought Travis (Burge) pitched well. It takes all of us to be successful.”
Carolina’s jumped on top in the first as Reid Fronk led off the game for the Heels with a single. A failed sac bunt got Browning the first out but a Josh Horton single up the middle put runners on the corners. The first run of the game came home on a ground out making it 1-0 UNC with two away. Browning hit Jay Cox putting runners on first and second and then a walk loaded the bases. Browning got number seven hitter Matt Spencer to fly out to end the top of the first.
Thomas got hit in the helmet in the second and then stole a base to get himself into scoring position with one away. Strauss then came up big as he has done all weekend long singling the run home and evening the game. Danny Diaz drew a two-out walk to put two on but Daniel Bard got out of the jam on a chopper right back to the mound.
The Heels came right back on the Seminoles in the bottom of the second thanks to a two-out rally. Fronk started things with a single and then Chad Flack went yard making it a 3-1 game.
Jack Rye opened the third by drawing a lead-off walk and then Ryne Malone was hit by a pitch with one away. Bard got the second out on a strikeout before both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Thomas then broke the tie as he tripled to the warning track in right center and then came home to score on an errant throw. The two-run triple and error put FSU back in front 4-3.
Both teams failed to score in their next two at bats before UNC threatened in the fifth. A walk and a two-out single put a couple runners on before Browning hit the next batter to load the bases for Tim Federowicz. The Seminoles brought Brian Chambers in to face the DH and the junior reliever plunked Federowicz on a 2-2 pitch to force in the tying run. That brought Burge into the game to try and preserve the tie. Burge came in and got the job done freezing Matt Spencer on a 3-2 breaking ball.
Danny Diaz keyed a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth versus Heel reliever Matt Danford. The junior doubled into the gap in right center and then Shane Robinson brought him in on a hard hit single to center field making it a 5-4 FSU lead.
UNC tried to tie the game or reclaim the lead for the third time as Benji Johnson got on with a bad hop single to open the bottom of the sixth. Johnson got sacrificed into scoring position for the top of the UNC order. Burge got the next hitter but then gave up an RBI single to Chad Flack as the game once again was all even. Burge walked the next batter to push another Tar Heel base runner into scoring position. That brought Marsh into the game. A double steal put both runners in scoring position with two away and Seth Williams at the plate. Marsh came through and froze Williams on a 2-2 pitch.
Malone double to the gap in left with one out in the top of the seventh as Florida State tried to wrestle the lead back for the third time. Thomas came through again with his second extra base hit of the day. This time the second baseman doubled into the gap in right scoring Malone as FSU went back in front 6-5.
A Seminole error on a throw to first allowed Carolina to put the lead runner on base in the bottom of the eighth. A sac bunt moved the runner to second with one away as Marsh gave way to DiBlasi to face the left-handed hitting Fronk. With the count 3-2 on the batter DiBlasi spun and caught Mike Cavasinni taking off for third wiping the potential tying run off the bases. On his next pitch DiBlasi retired the side.
“It was a tough situation but that’s my job to come in and get out of that situation,” said DiBlasi. “I figured the guy would be stealing after the first 3-2 when he didn’t go. I thought there was a good chance he would be on the move. It was an inside move and I got lucky he tried to steal. Then I battled my way through the inning.”
Tucker came in and pitched a perfect ninth to wipe away any chance of another miracle comeback victory for the Tar Heels.
Florida State returns home Tuesday, April 4 for their only game of the week at Dick Howser Stadium. The Seminoles welcome in Jacksonville at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night. Game Tracker will be available for every game this season along with live radio broadcasts available on WFLA locally and free on the Internet at seminoles.com.