After three days of offensive firepower at Louisville Slugger Field, the No. 2 North Carolina baseball team fell flat.
UNC was shut out through the final seven innings of its 7-3 ACC title game loss to Florida State. The loss was just the fourth in 22 games for the Tar Heels (47-12), who were averaging close to 12 runs per game in their three prior tournament games.
“Congratulations to Florida State,” head coach Mike Fox said. “Winning this tournament is a difficult task, and they deserve all the credit.”
All three of North Carolina’s runs came in the bottom of the second inning. Left fielder Tyler Lynn broke the game’s tie with his seventh home run of the year, and first baseman Michael Busch added a RBI double to give his team a 2-0 lead.
FSU’s Drew Mendoza then fumbled a ball twice at first base, giving UNC its third run of the inning. An inning later, the Tar Heels had a golden opportunity that could have opened the floodgates — bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth with no outs.
Drew Parrish had other plans. The Seminoles’ lefty stepped into about the worst situation a reliever could imagine and promptly struck out North Carolina’s next three batters.
“You don’t get many opportunities to extend the lead like that in a game,” Fox said. “We could’ve done that right there. That gave them momentum back in their dugout.”
The game became a defensive one until the Seminoles caught fire. Mendoza redeemed himself for his earlier errors with a seventh-inning home run. An inning later, FSU rattled off five runs to give itself a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It’s very unusual for us to give up a big inning like that,” Fox said. “But it happens, and we’ll move on.”
Both teams entered Sunday’s game with plenty of confidence. The second-seeded Tar Heels cruised through pool play with a 10-0 mercy-rule win over Boston College and a 12-4 victory over N.C. State that featured a 10-run first inning. And they didn’t have much trouble with Miami either, beating the Hurricanes 12-4 in the ACC semifinals.
FSU entered the tournament as the eighth seed but also as one of the hottest teams in the country. And its play reflected that. The Seminoles picked up wins over Notre Dame, top seed Louisville and Duke en route to the championship game.
“I think we’re ready for next weekend,” Fox said. “If that kind of inning (in the eighth) has to happen, I’m glad it happens here and not going forward.”
Lynn reflected the same confidence and forward thinking of his coach. A win on Sunday would have been nice, but a loss wasn’t the end of the world.
“It’s a sign of a great team,” he said of UNC’s resilience. “We’re just going to keep competing until someone tells us to stop.”
After four games in four days, North Carolina will have some time to rest and recuperate before NCAA tournament play starts. As the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, UNC will host one of sixteen regionals and will play Davidson on Friday at 6 p.m.
The games only get bigger from this point forward, and it’s time for the Tar Heels to follow Lynn’s words and keep competing.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.