Florida State U. baseball rallies for series win at U. North Carolina

By Cameron Mellor

Despite two late-inning rallies in the first and last games of a three-game set over the weekend, the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminole baseball team was able to take the weekend series against the 17th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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FSU (15-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated the Heels (15-6, 2-4 ACC) in their first game of the weekend as they erased a three-run deficit in the later innings to claim a 4-3 victory. The Heels, however, came back in game two, leaving Sunday afternoon’s matchup to decide the weekend series. FSU would score four runs in the last two innings to take Sunday’s game, 5-3.

“You might just routinely say that we were lucky (Friday),” FSU head coach Mike Martin said. “There are no two ways about it. We were just very lucky. I know exactly how they (the Tar Heels) feel because last week we had a five-run lead in the ninth inning, so I know how they feel.”

The Seminoles trailed 3-2 heading into the ninth inning when Justin Gonzalez came up to bat with one out already gone. Gonzalez lined a single up the middle and scored on the next hit as Jayce Boyd doubled into the gap in right center.

Despite a nice relay by the Tar Heels to make for a play at the plate, Gonzalez managed to slide in safely as UNC’s catcher Jacob Stalling could not hold on to the ball to make the out.

FSU then proceeded to load the bases as Tyler Holt drew a walk and James Ramsey was hit by a pitch in consecutive order. Boyd then scored the game-winning run as Michael Morin, the third Tar Heels pitcher of the inning, unloaded on a wild pitch on his first throw to the plate.

After Morin’s wild pitch that broke up the late-game tie, FSU called upon Mike McGee to protect and save the one-run, ninth-inning lead.

McGee would do exactly that as he retired the Tar Heels side in order to earn his first-ever collegiate save. Arguably the biggest hero of the night, Boyd got the job done defensively as well. Boyd helped McGee earn that first save with a back-handed catch on a hard hit line drive to get the second out of the inning and then by catching a fly ball in foul territory to get the last.

“It was kind of nerve-racking,” McGee said of his first-ever save. “I got a little behind, but just started to focus on making sure I did not walk anybody. I was going to throw strikes regardless.”

Game two, however, was a different story for both squads. The Seminoles found themselves on the shortend of the stick as the Tar Heels scored four runs from the seventh inning and beyond to take the 10-4 victory.

UNC scored four runs in the seventh inning alone as the Seminoles helped facilitate the effort by committing two errors that successfully avenged their late-inning defeat the previous day.

“You really have to credit North Carolina in the way that they bounced back (Saturday),” Martin said. “That was an excellent performance by their entire ball club.”

John Gast received his first loss on the season as he went 4.1 innings allowing six hits and five earned runs while only striking out three. On the other side, Colin Bates struck out five batters for the Tar Heels as he pitched just 3.2 innings. Jesse Wierzbicki went 2-for-4 as he notched a game-high three RBI for UNC.

Sherman Johnson was the only Seminole with multiple hits on the evening as he went 2-of-4 as well. Holt, Ramsey, Stephen Cardullo and Johnson each had an RBI in the loss.

FSU recovered against the Tar Heels in game three, though, as the game went to the top of the ninth tied at 3-3 after a two-run Seminole eighth. FSU scored two runs in the ninth to win 5-3. Cardullo went 3-for-5 in the game with an RBI, while McGee achieved his second save of the weekend as he got Brian Busch out of a jam in the bottom half of the ninth inning.

The Tribe will next play the Stetson Mad Hatters on March 26, before the Maryland Terrapins visit Tallahassee for a three-game set.

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