May 25, 2005
Jacksonville, FL – You had to wonder if karma had finally caught up with the 13th-ranked Seminole baseball team. After winning their last two games versus the 12th-ranked Tar Heels with walk-off hits, it looked like the tables had turned in the opening round of the 2005 ACC Baseball Championship. Florida State seemed to have just completed an opening round tournament win over UNC when ace closer Tyler Chambliss fanned the final Heel batter of the game but a dropped strike three with two outs in the ninth followed by a throwing error allowed the tying run to come home. That couldn’t deter FSU (49-16) though as a Tar Heel error in the bottom of the 12th gave the Seminoles their third straight walk-off victory over UNC (40-16-1) in a 3-2 victory.
The winning play came with runners on first and second and nobody out. Aaron Cheesman, who was charged with the throwing error in the ninth that gave the Heels new life, laid down a perfect sac bunt. UNC hurler Matt Danford (4-2) went to third to try and cut down the lead runner but the throw sailed past the third baseman allowing Ryne Malone to come home with the winning run.
“That play in the ninth was very uncharacteristic of myself,” said Cheesman. “I was very disappointed in myself after that because the game was over. You have to forget about it and roll through it. I was just hoping to get a chance to do whatever I could do to help the team from that point out.
“We have a bunch of guys that just don’t quit. We have a group of guys that really get after it. In my five years, this is a group of guys that enjoy being around each other. We are making teams walk off the field and that is a great way to win.”
It was the third straight extra inning game between the two teams in the ACC Tournament. It was also the third straight time in the tournament that the game has been decided by one run. The win moves FSU into the winner’s bracket where they will play the winner of the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest game at 7:00 p.m. Thursday.
“This was a well played baseball game on both sides,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin. “I was very proud of these young men’s perseverance. It was just a game where we got a break there at the end that you would never expect. It was a good job on Cheesman’s part in getting the bunt down.
“I admire these young men. Nobody dropped their heads and felt sorry for themselves tonight. They kept plugging away. It was certainly a very good win for our program versus a very good North Carolina team.”
Tyler Chambliss (7-3) picked up the win after pitching a season-high four innings. It was his longest outing since going six innings in last year’s ACC Tournament in a starting role. The sophomore seemed to have locked up his 15th save in the bottom of the ninth but pitched three more innings after the error to pick up the win. He allowed just two hits.
“Tyler kept us in this ballgame,” said Martin. “We have to always remember that this guy right here (Chambliss) went out there and got it done. He went out there and threw a lot of pitches.”
“After the ninth inning you just have to shake things off and keep going,” said Chambliss. “Things have gone wrong for us before and you just hope the team sticks together like we did tonight. I got comfortable out there and got into a groove. They kept telling me just one more inning but they were going to have to pull me off the mound to get me out of there. I was going to finish this game off.”
In a battle between All-ACC first teamers both aces, Robert Woodard for UNC and Bryan Henry for FSU, did not factor in the decision. Henry was in line for his seventh straight win before the ninth inning error extended the game. The sophomore went 6 1/3 and allowed just one run. He struck out three and issued just one walk.
“I thought Bryan had a good outing,” said Martin. “North Carolina is not hitting almost .300 as a team by a fluke. Bryan Henry pitched a very good ballgame. He gave up one run. They have seven left-handed pitchers and that put a lot of emphasis on our right-handers to get it done and I thought Bryan got it done tonight.”
Neither team could get anything going against two of the best pitchers in the conference through the first four frames. In the top of the fifth Henry issued the first walk of the game putting the lead off runner on for the Heels. A balk moved the runner into scoring position marking the first time since the top of the first that either team had a runner in scoring position. UNC’s fourth hit of the game put runners on the corners with nobody out in the inning. A sacrifice fly plated the first run of the game and broke the scoreless tie.
The Tar Heel run seemed to spark the FSU offense, which had been dormant since a hit in the first. Jack Rye, the first hitter in the bottom of the fifth, sent a shot to the warning track in right field but it was hauled in. Josh Spivey then ripped a double down the left field line. Ryne Jernigan sacrificed the runner over and almost beat out the bunt at first. The threat ended on a shot hit deep into the hole at short but UNC just got Tony Thomas, Jr. at first.
Florida State tried to answer with a two-out rally in the sixth. It started with an error and then a walk put a couple runners on. Danny Wardell then came through with a key two-out base hit tying the game at 1-1 as Gibbs Chapman came around from second to score. Rye, who just missed a homer in his previous at bat, broke the tie on his next plate appearance with a double down the line. Woodard then intentionally walked Spivey to load the bases but got out of the jam with his seventh K, tying a career high.
Carolina put the lead off runner on again in the seventh and then a one-out single put two aboard. That ended Henry’s day and brought Matt DiBlasi into the game. It took DiBlasi one pitch to end the threat as he got leadoff hitter Greg Mangum to ground into a double play one of three turned by FSU.
Thomas led off the bottom of the seventh with a bunt base hit. Shane Robinson followed by bunting to the exact same spot on the field to the second base side of the first baseman. That gave FSU back-to-back singles putting two on with nobody away. That hit brought UNC reliever Adam Kalkhof into the game and UNC immediately got a big out when Thomas was picked off second. It turned out to be a huge play as Malone singled following the pickoff, which would have given FSU another run. Instead it put runners on the corners with one away. The Seminoles lost another run when a Chapman singled to left field. Robinson had to hold up in case the ball was caught and he was then thrown out at the plate trying to score. New UNC hurler Jonathan Hovis hit Aaron Cheesman to load the bases but came back and ended the threat on a strikeout looking. Florida State recorded four straight hits to open the inning and put the first five batters on base but did not get a run on the board.
“That was an inning you like to forget,” said Martin. “I went to (Associate Head Coach) Jamey (Shouppe) and said we got four straight base hits and Cheesman got hit and we don’t have anybody in and there are two outs with a man on first and second. It was just one of those innings.”
Chambliss came in the ninth and an error put the potential tying run on. A sac and a ground out moved the runner to third with FSU needing just one out to pick up his 15th save. It looked like Chambliss had the save when he struck out the final batter of the game but the ball got away from Cheesman and the throw hit him when FSU tried to complete the strikeout. The error allowed the tying run to come home.
Chambliss held the Heels at bay over the next three innings setting the stage for the walk-off win. Danford walked the lead-off batter and then hit Chapman bringing Cheesman to the plate. The senior then laid down the sac bunt that won the game.
Mark Sauls (6-1, 3.63) will be on the mound for FSU tomorrow. Live video broadcasts will be available for all ACC Tournament games that are not televised along with Steve Melewski’s live radio broadcast available on WFLA locally and on the Internet at seminoles.com.