Florida State Rolls Past North Carolina, 7-1

Photo by Lynn Hey for theACC.com

FSU Back In ACC Championship Win Column for first tournament victory in nearly three years

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – The drought ended for Florida State on Wednesday night.

Starting pitcher Billy Strode tossed six shutout innings, while Justin Gonzalez and John Nogowski hit solo home runs as the second-seeded Seminoles opened their 2014 ACC Baseball Championship run with a 7-1 victory over seventh-seeded North Carolina before 4,738 at NewBridge Bank Park.

The win snapped a seven-game ACC Championship losing streak for FSU. The Seminoles’ last tournament win had come versus Georgia Tech on May 28, 2011. The defending champion Tar Heels lost in the event for the first time since falling to Miami on May 24, 2012. UNC carried a five-game tournament winning streak into Wednesday night’s game.

“The fact that we hadn't won one in a long time, I'm sure was on the minds of our guys,” said Florida State coach Mike Martin, who notched his 1,812th career win.

Both FSU (42-14) and UNC (33-24) have Thursday’s session off before resuming round-robin pool play on Friday. The Seminoles will face fourth-seeded Maryland in Friday’s 11 a.m. game, while the Tar Heels will meet third-seeded Virginia at 7 p.m.

Strode (2-1) allowed four hits while striking out five batters and issuing no walks. Gage Smith and Jameis Winston combined to pitch the final three innings in relief. UNC’s lone run was unearned.

“I just can't tell you what Billy did for our baseball team tonight,” Martin said.  “He's a great competitor.  He gave us a tremendous lift.  We didn't have to really dive into the bullpen.  Gage needed some work.  We got him a couple innings, and Jameis needed to work.  It was very fortunate that we were able to put them in under those conditions, because it's early in the tournament, but yet we've got three guys that have now pitched, and that was important for us.”

In addition to the strong pitching effort, FSU turned three double plays to squelch Tar Heel threats in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

“He just came right at us,” Tar Heel first baseman Alex Raburn said of Strode.  “They made plays behind him, and he found the zone and didn't walk a lot of guys.”

Taylore Cherry, one of the heroes of the Tar Heels’ 2013 ACC Championship run, took the loss on Wednesday night. Cherry (2-3) started on the mound and worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits while walking three and striking out three. All six of the runs he allowed were earned.

Florida State, ranked fourth nationally, scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second on Gonzalez’s two-out RBI single. The Seminoles tacked on four more in a fourth inning highlighted by No. 9 hitter Danny De La Calle’s two-run double and a run-scoring single by Casey Smit.

That made it 5-0 and left the Tar Heels staring at a steep uphill climb.

“You give up the big inning and it's hard to recover that from the team that pounds the strike zone and makes plays behind their pitcher,” UNC coach Mike Fox said.
Gonzalez led off the bottom of the sixth inning with his third home run of the season to make it 6-0, and Nogowski’s fifth round-tripper of the year capped the scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning. UNC’s lone run came on Alex Raburn’s RBI single in the top of the seventh. Raburn had two of the Tar Heels’ six hits.