May 29, 2004
SALEM, Va. (AP) – Matt Sauls laid down a perfectly placed two-strike safety squeeze in the 11th inning Saturday and Florida State beat North Carolina 8-7 to advance to the ACC tournament championship.
Sauls’ bunt between the pitcher and first base could only be fielded by pitcher Michael Gross, but he bobbled his attempted flip to the catcher, allowing Stephen Drew to score and end the 3?-hour game.
The Seminoles (40-20) had barely over an hour to get cleaned up and ready to play Georgia Tech (41-17) for the championship. Florida State needed to win Saturday night and again on Sunday to win the title.
North Carolina (41-19) went home to await an NCAA tournament bid.
The winning rally started when Drew doubled to left-center leading off against Gross (4-4) and was sacrificed to second. The Tar Heels walked Ryne Malone to set up a double play, then elected to pitch to Sauls.
Facing a 1-2 pitch, Sauls made the perfect surprise play.
Rhett James (9-2), who allowed eight hits and three runs in five innings, earned the victory, and allowed Florida State to use only two pitchers on a day when they weren’t many more available.
All five were reinstated in time for the second game.
The Seminoles seemed certain to win in the ninth when Malone hit a one-out double and made it to third when the ball was kicked in the outfield. After two intentional walks, Brandon Manasa hit a sinking liner to left. Jay Cox made a diving catch, then threw to third to easily double off Malone, more than halfway home having assumed it would be a hit.
North Carolina erased a 7-4 deficit with a run in the seventh and two in the eighth. Matt Ellington doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Webb in the seventh, the inning ending when Shane Robinson caught Chris Iannetta’s long drive while crashing into the centerfield fence.
Robinson started the eighth by catching Marshall Hubbard’s extra-base bid in a fullout dive, but three singles, a walk and a high hopper to first base brought in two runs to pull the Tar Heels even.
Earlier, a reversed call allowed the Seminoles to take a 7-4 lead.
Florida State had loaded the bases on three walks by Bryan Phillips when Dennis Anderson hit a two-out grounder to short. Greg Mangum fielded it and flipped to second, where the umpire initially called Gibbs Chapman out, bringing Martin out to argue that Bryan Steed bobbled the ball.
The Tar Heels trotted off the field, Martin came on to argue, and all four umpires huddled and then changed the call, agreeing with Martin.
That gave the Seminoles their fifth run, a wild pitch brought in another, and Shane Robinson’s infield single made it a 7-4 lead.
North Carolina had just tied the game in the top of the inning on a single, a walk and a fielding error by Malone at second base.
Malone was only in at second because regular second baseman Bryan Zech was one of the players suspended. Designated hitter Eddy Martinez-Esteve also was unavailable, as was starting pitcher Mark Sauls.