Mendoza homers twice; 8th inning rally stuns Tar Heels
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (theACC.com) – The tide turned in Florida State’s favor late, but in ample time for the Seminoles to claim their second Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship in three years.
Drew Mendoza hit two home runs, including a three-run shot that capped a five-run eighth-inning, and No. 8 seed FSU rallied to derail the second-seeded and second-ranked Tar Heels, 7-3, in Sunday’s title game at Louisville Slugger Field.
The Seminoles (39-20) also received a solid group pitching effort, as starter Andrew Karp and three relievers combined to hold a vaunted UNC offense that had averaged nearly 13 runs in its first three tournament games scoreless through the final seven innings.
The ACC baseball title is FSU’s seventh, all of which have come under veteran head coach Mike Martin. The Seminoles completed a 6-0 stretch in the city of Louisville over the past 10 days. FSU closed the regular season with two road wins at the University of Louisville on May 18 and 19 before winning four games this week en route to claiming the ACC Championship trophy.
FSU became just the second No. 8 seed in the 44-year history of the ACC Baseball Championship to win the title, joining the 2011 Georgia Tech squad.
UNC (47-12) lost for just the fourth time in its last 22 games.
Florida State trailed 3-2 entering the top of the eighth inning and had mustered only three hits off three UNC pitchers. But Taylor Walls led off with a single and Dylan Busby was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Tar Heel freshman Josh Hiatt then threw two consecutive wild pitches, allowing Walls to score the tying run and moving Busby to third.
After Jackson Lueck struck out and Quincy Nieporte drew an intentional walk, Cal Raleigh singled to left field to plate Busby and make it 4-3. Mendoza followed with a towering, 366-foot blast to right field for his second home run of the day and a 7-3 Seminole lead.
Alec Byrd (3-2) picked up the win on the mound for FSU, while Hiatt (4-2) took the loss for UNC.
Tyler Lynn’s one-out homer jump-started UNC in the bottom of the second. Zack Gahagan followed with a single up the middle and scored on Michael Busch’s RBI double. Two errors by Mendoza at first on Brian Miller’s hard-hit grounder allowed Busch to score and put the Tar Heels up 3-0. But UNC would not get another hit until the eighth inning.
The Seminoles forced UNC starter Tyler Baum from the game in the top of the first, loading the bases on a pair of walks and a single by Matt Henderson. Busby’s RBI grounder put FSU on the board, but reliever Taylor Sugg retired Lueck on a high chopper back to the mound to leave the score at 3-1.
The Tar Heels loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth on two walks and a hit batter. But left-hander Drew Parrish came on in relief to strike out Cody Roberts, Miller and Logan Warmoth to douse the threat. UNC left 10 total runners on base during the course of Sunday’s game, and FSU left nine stranded.
Mendoza led off the seventh inning by sending a 1-2 pitch from Hiatt to deep right for his sixth home run of the season to bring the Seminoles within 3-2 and set the stage for the dramatic eighth inning.
Both teams will now await the upcoming announcements regarding the 2017 NCAA Tournament field. The 16 regional host sites will be revealed on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Sunday. On Monday, the full field of 64 teams will be announced on ESPN2 at noon.