TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Friday night began as a pitching duel between the staff aces from a pair of top 10 teams. It ended with offensive fireworks.
Seventh-ranked Florida State erased one-run deficit with a three-run eighth inning, which lifted the Seminoles to a 5-3 victory over sizzling North Carolina at Dick Howser Stadium.
Jayce Boyd followed James Ramsey’s game-tying RBI double with a go-ahead sacrifice fly to center to put the Seminoles in front 4-3. Sherman Johnson snapped out of 0-for-13 slump with an RBI double for an insurance run.
“I’ve been in a lot of college baseball games that were really well-played,” said FSU coach Mike Martin. “This was one of them; one that you feel a little heartbreak when their guy hits the ball out on Gilly [Sean Gilmartin] in the eighth. Yet, as a coach, you know there’s six more outs and our guys stayed tough and got it done in the eighth.”
It was a first for the ‘Noles (23-7, 9-4 ACC), who were 0-3 when trailing after seven and eight innings this season and 1-4 in extra-inning games. In the process, FSU snapped a four-game winning streak by the Tar Heels (27-5, 10-3).
The Tar Heels threatened to extend that stretch in the eighth when freshman sensation Colin Moran’s laser-like, two-out, two-run homer to right – after a Devon Travis error at second base – gave the Tar Heels a 3-2 lead. The blast put an end to FSU starter Sean Gilmartin’s night and his bid to earn his first career win against UNC.
“We were just focused on not letting Gilly lose, because he was pretty mad after really throwing one bad pitch the whole game,” said Johnson.
Daniel Bennett (2-1) struck out Jesse Wierzbicki to retire the side and the Seminoles quickly went to work in turning his five-pitch appearance into a victory in the home half of the eighth.
Rafael Lopez (2-for-3) got the rally started off UNC reliever Michael Morin with a single to left and Mike McGee was plunked in the back. With runners at first and second, Ramsey extended his team-leading hitting streak to eight games with an RBI double to right, knotting the score. Cody Penny relieved Morin and relinquished the go-ahead sacrifice fly to Boyd and Johnson’s RBI double to right.
“I didn’t know I had a hitting streak going,” said Ramsey, who came to the plate 0-for-3 on the night. “I just know I was swinging it well. … When the game’s on the line you just really want to do it for your teammates. That’s that extra little push there that helps you confidence-wise at the end of the ballgame.”
Martin, who missed Wednesday’s game against Valdosta State following shoulder surgery, said it was especially gratifying to see Ramsey and Johnson come through in the clutch.
“I got fastball in over the plate and got a good swing on it,” Johnson said.
“It’s definitely huge. Any hit when you’re struggling is always huge. To get another run – an insurance run – it was awesome.”
So were Gilmartin and North Carolina starter Patrick Johnson, who came into the game with identical 6-0 records and dueled to a near-deadlock.
FSU’s defense had a lot to do with Gilmartin’s success. North Carolina stranded eight baserunners – seven in scoring position. The Seminoles turned critical double plays in the sixth and ninth innings to escape jams, and Gilmartin added a pair of defensive gems on well-hit balls up the middle to end the first and fifth innings.
“Some of the best games he [Gilmartin] has thrown are against Carolina,” said Ramsey. “He’s such an unselfish kid. He doesn’t care about the wins and losses. He just wants to go out there and give us a shot. You can’t say enough about the way he goes about his business and the complete consistency.
“We have no worries about what we’re going to have on the mound.”
The Seminoles’ left-hander struck out eight in 7.2 innings, walked two and scattered seven hits. Only one of the Tar Heels’ three runs were earned. Johnson struck out 10, walked two, yielded five hits and two runs – both earned – over 6.2 innings. Their unblemished records were preserved by the late-inning offensive dramatics from their respective teams.
The Tar Heels were staring at a deficit for the ninth consecutive game when the ‘Noles mustered a run in the second when Stuart Tapley’s two-out single brought home Boyd. UNC knotted the score in the fourth when Jacob Stallings followed a walk to Levi Michael and a Tommy Coyle double with a sacrifice fly.
Travis unlocked a 1-1 tie with a two-out solo blast in the fifth, which carried over the scoreboard. It was the 100th, two-out run of the season scored by the Seminoles, and second of four on the game. On the season, 102 of FSU’s 226 runs have scored with two outs.
FSU’s 2-1 edge stood up until Moran turned a misplaced Gilmartin change-up into his sixth homer, which pushed his ACC-leading RBI total to 44.
Still, it wasn’t enough as the Seminoles authored their first late-inning, come-from-behind victory of the season.
“That’s big, to beat a team like North Carolina in the last couple innings of this game,” said Gilmartin. “We’ve just got to come out tomorrow and do the same thing.”
Right-hander Scott Sitz (3-2) will get the ball for the Seminoles on Saturday, who will try and wrap up their eighth consecutive home series win over the Tar Heels. UNC will counter with freshman left-hander Kevin Emanuel (4-1).
Florida State will recognize players from the 1948-59 teams between the third and fourth innings of Saturday’s game as a part of the Alumni Weekend festivities.
For further information, visit: www.seminoles.com