By Greg Waters
Eerily reminiscent of two weeks ago when the Heels blew a four-run 9th inning lead in game two of their series against Georgia Tech, again today North Carolina (44-13) could not hold a five-run lead falling to Miami (35-20) 7-5.
Miami freshman A.J. Salcines picks up the win in relief for his first career victory and Zeke DeVoss paced the Hurricane attack going 4-for-4 with two walks, three RBIs and three stolen bases. Bryan Radziewski started the contest for UM but was lifted after five innings after giving up five runs and six walk on 93 pitches.
The Tar Heels (44-13) built an early 3-0 lead in the first inning when Levi Michael drew a four pitch, one out walk followed by Colin Moran’s RBI double to the gap in left center to plate Michael. With the bases loaded, Ben Bunting sent a laser to left to score Moran and Greg Holt walked to force in the third run of the frame.
The Heels had a chance to blow the game open in the third getting a leadoff walk and single. But lead runner Jesse Wierzbicki was picked off after wondering too far off second and Radziewski force Jacob Stallings into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Carolina added to its lead in fifth when Stallings singled and Wierzbicki scored on a throwing error. But again poor base running cost the Heels at chance a big inning when Tommy Coyle was nailed attempting to steal third. Following a walk Greg Holt singled to plate Stallings from second.
Tar Heel Head Coach Mike Fox did not blame the loss entirely on the base running blunders but admitted those mistakes and over aggression on the base paths eventually came back to bite the Heels.
“We couldn’t pad our lead after being up 5-0,” admitted Fox. “We made some really bad base running mistakes that probably cost us a run or two. How that changes the game you don’t really know. That’s just fundamental baseball. We should be much better than that, certainly this time of year.”
The Canes scratched in 6th when Dale Carey lined Holts hanging breaking ball to center with runners on first and second, scoring Harold Martinez. Holt gave way to Tate who promptly served up a walk to load the bases for Zeke Devoss. Andrew Smith was brought in to face Devoss who after falling behind 0-2 ripped a liner over outstretched arm of Heels centerfielder Ben Bunting for a base clearing double to cut the UNC lead to one. Devoss tried to reach third on the play but over slid the base and was tagged out to end the Miami threat.
But the Canes threatened again in the top of the 7th.
With one gone UNC shortstop Levi Michael booted a tough grounder to allow Rony Rodriguez to reach and move into scoring position on Harold Martinez’s single. Smith issued a walk to Brad Fieger to pack the sacks for Chris Pelages. Fox went back to his bullpen and called on fastballer R.C. Orlan to come in and put out the fire. Pelaez grounded to first to force an out at the plate and Orlan had Miami’s Stephen Perez in an 0-2 hole with two outs. Perez battled back to work the count full and delivered a single through the left side of the infield and with the runners moving scoring Martinez and Fieger from second to give the Canes their first lead of the game.
“I was trying to get something good to hit,” said Perez. “I had fouled a couple of pitches off. I knew my right-handed swing was feeling a lot better than the left side that day. I was just trying to knock one in for the team and try to do my best.”
“You get to that 3-2 count and R.C. [Orlan] is throwing mostly fastballs and Perez has seen six or seven fastballs in a row that always helps as a hitter and he found the six hole,” lamented Fox.
Making his first start of the year, senior RHP Greg Holt allows three earned runs in five and 2/3 innings. Orlan took the loss.
“I think it was a great game to watch,” said UM skipper Jim Morris. “North Carolina has an outstanding club, and our guys did a great job of coming back against a really, really good club.”
UM will take on the Cavaliers tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM and the Heels will face Wake Forest in the Friday night cap.
#2 Florida State vs. #6 Clemson
James Ramsey went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs to lead Florida State past the Clemson Tigers 6-3 Thursday. With the win the Nole improve to 41-16 while the Tigers drop to 40-18.
Sean Gilmartin allowed seven hits over six innings, picking up his fifth-straight win and improving his record to 11-1 on the season. Seminole closer Daniel Bennett picked up his 13th save.
“[Gilmartin] pitched six innings of beautiful baseball; has done it all year long and it’s quite an accomplishment for him in 94 degree weather to throw 92-93 – however many pitches he ended up with but it was quite an accomplishment,” said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin.
Unlike Wednesday when the Noles were shut out by NC State, the Seminoles built an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Devon Travis led off with a single to right field followed by Javier Lopez’s four-pitch walk. Both runners advanced on Mike McGee’s sacrifice bunt and Travis scored on Ramsey’s liner to center. The Tigers answered in the bottom of the first off Brad Miller’s RBI single.
Florida State added a run in the to take a 2-1 lead and added two more in the sixth. McGee doubled off the left field wall followed by Ramsey’s third dinger in seven games and his 10th of the season to bump the lead to 4-1.
The Tigers made their run in the bottom of the sixth and just as yesterday, the man doing the damage was Chris Epps.
Will Lamb led off the frame with a single and Jeff Schaus added a one out single to put two on for Epps. The senior outfielder stroked a deep ball to centerfield that just was out of the reach of McGee’s mit. The ball was ruled a ground-rule double scoring Lamb and moving Schaus to third that scored on Jason Stolz’s sacrifice fly to shave the FSU lead to one.
It was not enough.
The Noles quickly respond as Parker Brunelle opened the bottom of the frame with a lead-off triple. With the Tiger infield wanting to cut-down Brunelle at the plate, Rafael Lopez squeezed a single between the drawn-in first and second basemen for the RBI hit. Mike McGee followed with a shot that took a wicked hop away from Clemson Stolz and into right field allowing Lopez to advance to third, coming in to score on the next pitch off Ramsey’s sacrifice fly.
Martin noted the importance of those extra insurance runs late.
“[Brunelle’s hit] was undoubtedly a big hit for us,” said Martin. “Speaking of others that contributed, Rafael [Lopez] comes up after a strikeout and drives the ball into right field to score Taiwan [Easterling]. A lot of people got it done today and that was undoubtedly a big run for us. You have a man on third base with nobody out and Clemson shows what they’re all about with a big strikeout. Now all of the sudden you’re thinking ‘uh-oh’ and they have the infield in so Rafael really picked us up with that one.”
Gilmartin scattered seven hits, allowed three runs, walked two with three strikeouts.
Clemson starter Justin Sarratt (7-2) suffered the loss. In 5.0 innings pitched, he yielded six hits, four runs, and three walks. The Tigers six hurlers combined to allow 13 hits, the most given up by Clemson this season.
Clemson manager Jack Leggett said Sarratt struggled with his command and got in trouble with by getting behind the FSU batters.
“He just had a little trouble getting his breaking ball over for strikes, and then he was working behind in the count,” explained Leggett. “[Florida State] had a pretty good approach with him today, and he had trouble throwing his fastball for strikes where he wanted to. He was battling out there for us though.”
The Seminoles will take on Georgia Tech today in the afternoon tilt and Clemson take the day off and prepare to face North Carolina State on Saturday.
#3 Georgia Tech vs. #7 North Carolina State
Georgia Tech broke open a 1-1 tie in the top of the 6th and the two clubs battled back and forth for another 9 innings before Mott Hyde stole home to deliver what proved to be the game winning run as Georgia Tech bested the Wolfpack 6-5 in the longest game in ACC Baseball Championship history.
Matt Grimes (7-3) earned the victory on the mound and Ethan Ogburn (6-4) took the loss. Tech’s Jed Bradley started the game and went 5.1 innings, allowing two runs while fanning 8 and only issuing 2 free passes. Rob Chamra went five for State surrendering three runs on six hits.
Matt Skole led off the top of the sixth inning with his ninth round tripper of the year followed by a walk to Jack Davies. That ended Chamra’s day who gave way to Grant Sasser. Sasser quickly got outs one and two but surrendered a single to Sam Dove and loaded the bases with a free pass to Brandon Thomas. Davies and Dove scored on Zane Evans RBI [hit type].
State answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth on Matt Bergquist’s RBI double to cut the Tech lead to 4-2.
The Wolfpack regained the advantage with a 3-run seventh. Clay Dalton came into the pitch the top of the frame for the Jackets and proceeded to throw 14 pitches, 12 of which were balls, walking three consecutive State hitters to load the sacks. Dalton fanned Andrew Ciencin and induced a potential inning-ending double play only to see it booted by shortstop Jacob Esch plating Chris Diaz and Brett Williams to knot the game at 4. Pratt Maynard scored the go-ahead run on Harold Riggans ground out to short.
The Jackets tied the score in the eighth on Zane Evans RBI single to centerfield.
The two clubs remained scoreless for the next 6 innings but Hyde’s one out double in the top the 15th opened the door for the Yellow Jackets. Dove grounded to shortstop to move Hyde to third which brought Thomas to the plate.
With Ogburn working out of the wind-up, Tech skipper Danny Hall made the call to send Hyde.
“I watched him throw the first pitch and in my mind I’m like ‘that guy is kind of slow’ and Mott’s got a pretty big lead. The second pitch he threw Mott got an even bigger lead and when he was coming back he looked at me and I looked at him and asked ‘do you think you can do it?’ and he said yes. So I had to give a sign to Brandon Thomas to let him know that we are trying to steal,” Hall explained.
State catcher Pratt Maynard appeared to know something was brewing as he shifted pre-pitch to left side if the dish to get in position to make a tag. But Ogburn’s pitch was a little low and a shade inside and Maynard could not come up with the ball.
“Ethan went into his wind-up, and I just saw the runner out of the corner of my eye,” said Maynard. “It lasted five seconds, but in my head it lasted an eternity. I saw the pitch, and I tried to catch it. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch it. If I catch it, he’s out.”
State managed to get a one out walk in bottom of the frame but Diaz struck out swinging and John Gianis was forced out at second for the final out.
The Jackets will face off with FSU today at 3:00 PM and State will enjoy an off day and be the main attraction for the brunch crowd on Saturday.
Biggest winner: After suffering a day one loss to the Wolfpack the Seminoles needed help if they were to return to defend their 2010 ACC Title. They got Thursday. FSU took care of business with its 6-3 win over Clemson but needed to wait until the early morning hours to see the Yellow Jackets would provide the outside help they needed. They did handing NC State a 6-5 loss to put the Nole right back into the title hunt. Ironically, the team that assisted the Florida State in getting back in the championship race is the team Mike Martin and his club will need to defeat today to play in the Sunday finale. Bottom line, if the Noles beat Tech they move on the ACCCG.
Maybe more importantly, the Seminoles certainly helped their case in their quest for one of the eight national seeds.
Biggest loser: North Carolina has played only one game in the ACC Tournament but already have an extremely difficult path to emerge in Sunday’s title game. To do so the Tar Heels must defeat Wake today and win over Virginia on Saturday night. But that’s not all. Virginia would need to take out the Canes later today and UNC must rely on Wake Forest to somehow upset Miami. If the Canes win on Friday, UNC will be out the Tournament race.