April 12, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second time this weekend, 25th-ranked Florida State (21-11, 9-7 ACC) came from behind in the ninth to defeat second-ranked North Carolina (27-9, 10-7 ACC). On Sunday, the late inning heroics belonged to Jason Stidham as the sophomore second baseman registered a walk-off, two-run single to lift the Seminoles to the 9-8 victory over the Tar Heels.
FSU once again showed tremendous resiliency late in a ball game erasing a five-run deficit on Sunday scoring four in the eighth and two in the ninth to capture their third conference series of the season. It marked the fourth walk-off victory for the Seminoles this year and second of the weekend as a sac-fly by Rafael Lopez gave FSU the victory on Friday.
“This was even bigger than the Friday night win,” said head coach Mike Martin. “When you’re behind as we were with so much at stake, it was obviously an uphill battle especially when you’re facing a team that leads the nation in ERA. This ranks as one of the big wins in my career because there was so much riding on this at this time of year.”
Down five heading into the eighth, the Seminoles would not go quietly plating four to draw within one of the North Carolina lead at 8-7. For the fourth straight inning the Seminoles loaded the bases and with one swing of the bat Mike McGee wiped the slate clean registering a three-run double down the line in left. With runners at first and second and two outs, Sean Gilmartin came through with a clutch RBI hit, doubling down the line in left to score McGee setting up what would be a dramatic ninth inning.
“Mike McGee’s big double in the eighth was huge to get three runs in that situation; that was big,” said Martin.
In the ninth, Florida State got the first two base runners on as Tyler Holt and Stephen Cardullo each registered a walk. Both runners would advance 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Stuart Tapley leading up to the game-winner by Stidham. The Palm Bay, Fla., native worked the count in his favor against UNC reliever Garrett Davis (0-1) and on a 3-1 pitch sent a base hit to right scoring Holt and Cardullo for the one-run victory.
“I got myself into a good hitters count with it being 3-1,” said Stidham. “I was looking for a fastball up, something that I could drive to the outfield to at least get a sac-fly. But to get that ball to drop in like I did was a great feeling.”
Jimmy Marshall (2-1) worked a season-high two innings as he kept the Tar Heels off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth innings. The senior right hander allowed a hit and a walk while striking out three to pick-up the win.
“To come in during that kind of ball game is fun,” added Marshall. “My goal is to hold them to no runs and trust that our offense is going to get it done. The fight of this team, the tradition of never giving up, fighting to the very last out, is a perfect example of what this team is made of. It was a great win for everybody.”
Stidham finished the game with a team-high three hits. Cardullo, McGee and Jack Posey recorded two hits a piece, while McGee led all Seminoles with three RBI. Holt registered a season-high four walks in the series finale and now has 14 base-on-balls in his last six games.
Cardullo extended his hitting streak to 17 games in the bottom of the first lacing a triple down the line in left. The Seminoles were unable to get Cardullo home as UNC starter Patrick Johnson got Tapley and Stidham swinging on strikes to close out the inning.
North Carolina broke a scoreless tie with a run in the fourth. Mike Cavasinni was hit on the foot on a 2-2 offering from McGee with the bases loaded driving in Mark Fleury for the first run of the game. McGee had not allowed a runner past first until the fourth as he issued a walk to Fleury and singles to Garrett Gore and Ryan Graepel. The sophomore right hander got out of the inning without further damage striking out Tarron Robinson.
The Seminoles threatened in the bottom of the fourth but Stidham was thrown out at the plate trying to steal home for the final out of the inning. Stidham dropped a one-out bloop single to left and advanced to third two batters later on a single to center by James Ramsey. Ramsey took second on the play as Cavasinni’s throw got away from the Tar Heel cut off man. With Johnson throwing from the wind-up and Kyle Seager playing deep at third, the Seminoles attempted to steal home. Stidham got a good jump down the line at third but the pitch thrown by Johnson was in the right place for Tar Heel catcher Mark Fleury to make the tag at the plate.
The Tar Heels added to their lead in the fifth on a solo shot to left by Dustin Ackley. After a single by Seager and a two-out walk to Gore, McGee’s afternoon would come to end. Geoff Parker came out of the bullpen and got Levi Michael to fly out to right to keep the Tar Heel lead at two.
McGee earned a no decision on Sunday after working 4.2 innings. The sophomore right hander gave up two runs on six hits as he walked two and struck out six.
“McGee pitched well,” added Martin. “It was a shame that things didn’t work out for him. He made some good pitches and they did a good job of hitting. It was one of the best games that he pitched all season.”
Florida State cut the deficit in half with its first run of the game in the fifth. Posey began the inning taking the first pitch he saw from Johnson off the top of the scoreboard in left for his fifth home run of the season. The Seminoles proceeded to load the bases but could not come up with the tying run as Matt Harvey came out of the bullpen and got Stidham to fly out to center for the third out of the inning.
Johnson worked 4.2 innings in making his fourth start of the season. The sophomore right hander gave up one run on six hits as he walked two and struck out six in earning a no decision.
North Carolina broke the game wide open in the sixth on a two-out grand slam by Seager. The Tar Heel third baseman sent a line drive over the wall in left off Parker for his second home run of the season and first career grand slam. It marked the third slam offered up by the Seminole pitching staff this year.
FSU cut the UNC lead in half for the second time on Sunday taking advantage of a Tar Heel error in the sixth. After giving up a single to McGee and a walk to Posey, Harvey looked to get out of the inning as Parker Brunelle sent a bouncing ball to Graepel, but the shortstop took his eye off the ball as all three Seminole runners reached base safely. The error proved costly as Holt and Cardullo registered RBI walks with the bases loaded to make the score 6-3.
The Tar Heels would get those two runs back in the seventh to push their lead back to five at 8-3. Pinch hitter Ryan Norton ripped an RBI single back up the middle off John Gast plating Levi Michael, who reached on an infield single. A fielding error by Stidham at second led to the second run of the inning as the Seminole second baseman could not handle the ground ball off the bat of Gore plating Cavasinni from third.
The Seminoles could not capitalize on a no out, bases loaded situation in the seventh. UNC’s Bryant Gaines faced just three batters in the inning before giving way to Nate Striz. Stidham led off the inning with a double off the fence in right followed by consecutive walks to McGee and Ramsey. Striz came in and shut the door on the Seminoles as he got Posey and pinch hitter Tommy Oravetz looking on strikes before inducing a ground out to second by pinch hitter Rafael Lopez to end the inning.
The Seminoles and the Tar Heels each registered 12 hits on Sunday afternoon, while FSU tied a season-high leaving 15 runners on base.
Florida State will return to the diamond on Tuesday, April 14 as the Seminoles host Florida on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:00 p.m. The game will air live over the internet on ACC Select. Fans can listen to the action locally on 1270 the Team and over the internet on www.seminoles.com. Live stats will also be available via gametracker.