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May 25, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - Virginia's Kenny Towns raced home from first on a routine single to save Virginia from defeat, then made the Cavaliers winners in the 12th inning with a three-run homer over the Blue Monster at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Saturday. Towns' heroics allowed Virginia to top Florida State 7-4 in a round-robin game at the ACC Baseball Championship.
It was the seventh straight ACC Tournament loss - dating back to the 2011 championship game - for the Seminoles. It ended a tough week for Mike Martin's team. FSU lost a one-run game at North Carolina Monday before the tournament, gave up two runs with two outs in the ninth to lose by one to Georgia Tech in their opener, lost by one on a walkoff home run against Virginia Tech Thursday and lost Saturday's 12-inning marathon.
"That was a fun week - reminds me of a trip I took to Afghanistan for vacation," Martin said sarcastically. But on a serious note, he added: "It's a disappointment, but the (next) season begins Friday night."
That's when the NCAA Tournament opens and even though neither FSU (44-15) nor Virginia (47-10) will be around for the ACC title game Sunday, both figure to be high seeds in the postseason.
Virginia coach Brian O'Connor learned Friday afternoon that his team was eliminated from the ACC title chase when Virginia Tech finished pool play 3-0.
"I told my team that we never play a game that doesn't have meaning," O'Connor said. "We need to treat it like a championship game."
The two teams competed Saturday as if a championship was on line. Florida State, getting a strong starting performance by Brandon Leibrandt, opened a 4-1 lead with three runs in the sixth inning and was still on top 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Towns first made magic happen.
He was on first with a walk when leadoff hitter Mike Papi - the ACC's leading hitter - stroked what appeared to be a routine single to right off FSU closer Robby Coles. Towns was running on the pitch and he headed toward third as Jameis Winston - who has one of the strongest arms in the ACC - lobbed the ball back to shortstop Giovanny Alfonso, who was standing on second base.
Towns rounded third and raced for home. Alfonso appeared to hesitate before he threw home high, allowing Towns to slide in under the tag.
"Maybe we dropped our guard for a second," Martin said. "It was an aggressive, smart move."
Both teams missed chances to score over the next few innings, although Virginia's closer, Kyle Crockett gave the Cavaliers four strong innings. The FSU bullpen was effective too, until Jameis Winston (L, 1-2) - who moved from right field to the mound to start the 10th inning, finally ran into trouble in the 12th.
He walked designated hitter Derek Fisher on a 3-2 pitch and moved him to second on a wild pitch. After an intentional walk, Nick Howard popped out trying to sacrifice. But Towns followed with his soaring shot over the left field wall.
"I was just thinking to get the barrel of the bat on it and he would do the work," Towns said of his approach to the hard-throwing Winston. "The pitch was pretty much right down the middle."
Howard, who started the game at shortstop, pitched the final inning for the Cavs to earn the win (6-4).