Tar Heels head into ACC tourney with victory over Seminoles
North Carolina capped its most successful regular season in history in style.
The Coastal Division champions beat Atlantic Division champion Florida State 4-3 at Boshamer Stadium and will head into the postseason with a 48-8 record, three more wins than any previous UNC team.
The Tar Heels (48-8) hadn’t played the Seminoles (44-12) in two seasons because of a scheduling quirk, so the division winners finally took matters into their hands and played a non-conference game Monday that will serve as a warmup for the ACC Tournament, which starts Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
UNC will be the No. 1 seed for the first time since 1990, while FSU be the No. 2 seed after its seventh straight Atlantic crown. The Tar Heels get started Thursday at 3 p.m. against No. 8 Miami.
Cody Stubbs scored the winning run Monday in the eighth inning after he struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt with two outs but reached first on a wild pitch.
“One of the few times I was actually happy to strike out,” Stubbs said.
With the inning extended, Stubbs moved to third on a single by Michael Russell and then scored on an RBI single by catcher Brian Holberton, who was hitting .118 in May entering the game.
“If this game doesn’t do anything else, maybe it gets Brian Holberton going a little bit,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “That’s probably the guy on our team who needed to step up there and get a big hit for us.”
Closer Trent Thornton (9-0) hit John Sansone with a pitch to lead off the ninth, but Seth Miller grounded into a double play after attempting a sacrifice bunt, and Thornton struck out D.J. Stewart to end the game.
Thornton pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to get the win. Jameis Winston (1-1), who is favored to succeed E.J. Manuel as the quarterback of the football team, allowed one run in 2.2 innings to take the loss.
Stubbs’ hustle in the eighth inning made up for a bad baserunning error earlier. He tripled to lead off the sixth inning but broke for home on a grounder to first with no outs and was thrown out at the plate.
Earlier in the inning, two UNC outfielders misplayed a ball that bounced off the wall, allowing Jose Brizuela to triple. Brizuela later scored on a wild pitch, tying the game at 3-3.
“We still did some really, really dumb things,” Fox said. “We have to get better at some things, but we did just enough.”
That said, Fox hoped the win would give the team momentum heading into the ACC Tournament, which the Tar Heels haven’t won since 2007. UNC also remained the only team in the country not to suffer a losing streak, though it did drop its final two conference series to Georgia Tech and Virginia.
“It’s important to get a little bit of our mojo back,” Fox said. “A little bit of our swagger that we had when we were winning games and you expect to win and there’s no doubt.”
UNC had won 39 of its first 41 games. The previous mark for regular-season wins (45) was set by the 2006-08 teams, which all made the College World Series.
In the current 12-team configuration, ACC programs only played series against 10 the other 11 schools in the conference, and FSU has been the odd team out for UNC during the most recent two-year cycle.
But both teams had games canceled because of rain this season — for the Tar Heels, it was the rubber match in the three-game series at N.C. State that could not be made up under ACC rules. The programs decided to schedule a makeup game Monday, when the Seminoles already would be in town because of the ACC Tournament.