May 14, 2005
Tallahassee, FL – Ryne Malone had never hit a walk-off home run in his life. Not in little league, not in high school and not in his two years at FSU. That was until Saturday. With the Seminoles trailing by two runs in the ninth and nobody on base FSU was down to its last strike but back-to-back hits brought the biggest Tar Heel killer in the land to the plate. Ryne Malone, who came into his last at bat hitting .590 and slugging 1.318 in his career against UNC, blasted a three-run shot over the right field fence giving the Seminoles (45-14, 17-9) the series, third-place in the ACC and the first win of the season on a walk-off home run in the 6-5 victory.
“That was the first walk off home run of my life and my parents were here to see it. My dad came on to the field and gave me a big hug,” said Malone after his ninth inning heroics. “It was wonderful. I was just fortunate to be in a situation where our nine and one guys both got two-out base hits and the rest is history.”
“There is no doubt that was a huge, huge hit,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin. “What impressed me the most was the way Ryno (Ryne Malone) was totally in control of himself. (UNC reliever Jonathan) Hovis made a great 0-1 pitch and now Ryno is 0-2. Hovis missed on trying to get him to chase the third pitch then Ryno hit the slider out. It was a moment that I will live with for the next 24 hours and enjoy for every minute but we need to come out tomorrow and play better than we did today. It was a great win for our program though. It couldn’t have been scripted any better.”
The home run was the 18th career homer for Malone and five have now come against the Heels including two this weekend. In his career, Malone is hitting .609 (14-for-23) and slugging 1.435 against UNC with two doubles and a triple on top of the five homers. He raised his total bases to 33 in just six games versus Carolina.
“I don’t know why I have success against North Carolina,” said Malone. “It is a big series every year. It seems to always come down to a race between us two for seeding somewhere in the standings. The competition is just incredible and it is such an important game especially when we play here.”
For five innings the Seminoles were trailing the Heels and things didn’t look any better in the ninth when Hovis quickly retired the first two batters. With two outs, two strikes and nobody on base, Thomas beat out an infield single to third base. Shane Robinson followed with a hit through the left side and that brought up Malone. The sophomore was 5-for-7 in the first two games versus UNC with a homer and a triple. He quickly fell behind Hovis (5-4) 0-2. The Heels had not lost a game all season when entering the ninth inning with a lead. Hovis looked like he was going to make that stat hold up as FSU was down to its last strike of the game before Malone hammered a 1-2 hanging slider over the right field fence for the first walk-off home of the season for FSU.
“He threw a first pitch slider and then a fastball. The pitch I hit out was a slider that hung up in the zone,” said Malone. “You really have to credit Tony and Shane. Tony’s on base percentage is way up there this season and as soon as Shane got up I knew I would get a shot to hit. It was a good feeling knowing I would have the game in my hands.”
“The best thing was that every single Seminole was at the plate as if they had hit the home run,” said Martin. “That is what you want. That is overlooked in the game of baseball. The feeling of being part of a team and this group has that.”
Kevin Lynch picked up the win on a monumental day in his career. Not only did he improve to 9-0, the second best win total in the ACC, and drop his ERA to 1.98, but he also became FSU’s all-time leader in career appearances and relief appearances. The senior passed Daniel Hodges with the 128th appearance of his career.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything else today,” said Lynch. “What a great way to break this record. It was a perfect day for all of this to happen.
“I want to credit my coaches for having a lot of confidence in me through my career. They have stuck with me through the ups and downs throughout my career. Even now they keep sending me out there. A lot of people get down on themselves but 128 ballgames later I still believe in myself.”
For the sixth straight game the Seminoles pounded out 10 or more hits. It was the third time this season FSU has put together a streak of six straight games with double digit hits. Malone led the way going 3-for-5 with five of the team’s six RBIs. It was his second five-RBI game of the season. Robinson collected two hits as well improving his average to .446 on the year.
The Tar Heels got off to a quick start versus FSU starter Mark Sauls who had another solid outing despite a rough start to the game. The junior went 6 2/3 allowing eight hits and five runs four of which were earned. Two came in the first inning as Carolina put runners on first and second with two away but a hard hit double off the wall in left field by Jay Cox made it an early 2-0 lead for UNC.
For the 35th time in 59 games this season Robinson led off a game by getting on base. He laced a double off the wall in right to start the bottom of the first versus UNC starter Robert Woodard. A long fly out moved Robinson to third and then the Player of the Year candidate tried to swipe home and almost pulled it off as he was called out on a very close play at the plate.
Thomas got on base in the third due to just the 11th walk of the season by Woodard. Robinson then drew another walk putting runners on first and second with one away. Malone then continued to torture the Heels as he laced a triple into the right field corner tying the game at 2-2. It gave Malone four hits in his first five at bats this weekend. Gibbs Chapman then put FSU in the lead with a single into shallow right field scoring Malone with the third run of the game.
The fifth error of the series by the Seminoles put Carolina in position to tie the game. Chad Flack singled and stole second but an errant throw allowed the first baseman to get to third with just one away. A ground out brought the tying run home for UNC and then a single into right field gave the Heels a 4-3 lead.
Another Seminole miscue allowed Carolina to push the lead to 5-3. With two outs and a runner on second, a chopper to third bounced past Malone and into left field. It was the sixth error committed by FSU in the two games but Matt DiBlasi and Lynch kept UNC at bay the rest of the way.
Florida State will conclude its series with North Carolina (37-13-1, 15-8-1) Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Florida State’s four seniors will be honored with a ceremony before first pitch. Fans are asked to come to Mike Martin Field early to help us honor Gibbs Chapman, Danny Wardell, Kevin Lynch and Aaron Cheesman. Game Tracker will be available for all this year’s games along with Steve Melewski’s live radio broadcast available on WFLA locally and on the Internet at seminoles.com.
The win improved FSU to 13-1 versus UNC in Tallahassee in the last 14 meetings.
Woodard’s four walks were a career high.
The Seminoles moved into third place in the ACC standings due to a better winning percentage than the Heels.
Florida State now owns the tie-breaker over Clemson and UNC, the two teams closest to FSU in the ACC standings.