CHAPEL HILL, NC – North Carolina used a combination of power, pitching and small ball to sweep No. 12 Florida State to close the regular season – 7-5, 10-4, 11-0.
Game one started hot and closed hot with a giant lull in the middle for the Tar Heels. A four-run first and a three-run ninth led to the Tar Heels walking off game one. Game two’s win was thanks to six insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings via a Danny Serretti grand slam in his final series at Boshamer Stadium.
Game three was delayed in the middle of the seventh for two hours and 37 minutes due to severe weather in the area. Much of the time was spent milling about the dugout for both teams, imitating teammates’ batting swings and tossing the ball around lightly.
“Definitely the relationships, for sure,” Vance Honeycutt said about his favorite part of the regular season. “It has been awesome meeting all these guys at the beginning, and you know how meetings are. You come in and everyone’s quiet, especially the freshmen. As time gets along, you kind of find your crew and this locker room has been great.
“It’s really unlike any other team I’ve been on. Every guy bonds and everyone gets along, and it’s just awesome to see these guys just picking everybody up all the time, supporting everybody, and it’s been really cool. “
With the win on Saturday, the only shutout of an ACC opponent by the Tar Heels this season, UNC earned the No. 8 seeds in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte next week. It was also UNC’s first sweep of a conference opponent since it began its conference slate against Pittsburgh.
On the Right Note
Nearly one month ago, UNC was swept by Virginia on the road giving the Heels an 8-13 conference record, and making it tough to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels responded with a 7-2 conference finish, including series wins over Wake Forest and NC State and a sweep of the Seminoles.
“This postseason, just playing (the game) kind of like your last,” Honeycutt said. “Obviously, I haven’t been through it, but if you look at it as this could be the final game with this group, it really doesn’t matter what year you are, because this group is only together for one year. You want to keep playing with these guys. So I think that for sure, and it gives us a pretty good confidence and momentum going into the ACC (tournament). “
It hasn’t been perfect baseball by any means, but the Tar Heels are certainly heading into the playoffs on the right note. They found something after being swept by Virginia, a series that featured two walk-off wins for the Cavaliers, and went 7-2 in their final nine conference games.
Head coach Scott Forbes has drawn on similarities to the basketball team’s tumultuous season that led to greatness down the stretch.
“I’m lucky that I’m close with Hubert,” said the second-year head coach. “I’ve talked to him a lot about it. His saying the whole time was ‘keep your eyes forward, eliminate the distractions,’ an old proverb and that’s what I talked to our guys about. Don’t get on your phones, don’t look at Twitter, don’t look at what people are saying, and just focus on each other and what’s in front of you, because you can’t do anything about what’s behind you.
“If anything, though, the analogy with basketball is nobody believed except them, for the most part. I mean, they got absolutely smashed. I looked at their record, and then the loss to Pitt at home. So I talked to our guys, look where these guys were after that loss to Pitt. Think about what everybody was saying. And you might have been saying it, because you pull for them so hard. Well, somehow in that locker room, they said, ‘You know what, we can do this,’ and they did, and look where they ended up. “
Berto Bombs Away
Alberto Osuna started the weekend off hot with a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning to give UNC a 4-0 lead after one inning. Then the bats went cold with the Seminoles holding the Tar Heels scoreless for the next seven innings.
The pitching staff did its best to hold onto the lead, but FSU wasn’t going quietly. It took the lead in the top of the eighth with a two-run home run. Then Osuna came up to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with two runners on and two outs.
He fell behind 0-2 after two sliders, fought back, and knocked his second three-run bomb of the game to walk it off on Thursday night.
He became the first UNC player to have two games with six or more RBI in a single season since Tim Fedroff in 2008. Osuna had six RBI earlier this season against Louisville. He kept the hot bat throughout the weekend, going 4-for-12 with nine RBI and three home runs.
Saturday’s game, delayed due to weather, was not a slugfest. However, UNC took advantage of the wild pitching by the Seminoles to score runs.
The Tar Heels walked 11 times compared to eight hits and at one point had six runs on four hits. In the second inning, UNC scored two runs on back-to-back sacrifice flies. In the fifth inning, Vance Honeycutt and Osuna walked, Mikey Madej put a sacrifice bunt down to move the runners over and Tomas Frick hit a sacrifice fly to score another run.
“During the stretch when we were struggling some when we lost some of those games, it’s hard to sac bunt when you’re down three or four runs,” Forbes said. “And that’s a part of our game we want to be able to use and we’ve talked about during this stretch if we’re playing well and guys are pitching well, and we’re up three to nothing, we’ve got to get A sac bunt down and go up four nothing … After Virginia, their approach is we’re gonna play every game like it’s the postseason. And that’s what they’re gonna do. ”
Eleven Diamond Heels (click here for photo gallery) earned their college degrees two weeks ago and were honored for Senior Day prior to the series finale against FSU. Most are four-year players that have remaining eligibility with some being five-year guys that have exhausted their eligibility.
Regardless, all were honored for earning their degrees while playing baseball in Carolina blue, and then 10 of the 11 entered the game, with Davis Palermo, the star closer, being left out in the 11-run shutout, the first conference shutout of the season.
“Just winning the series was good and fun. I’m glad we did that, but just getting the sweep (on senior day) just adds to it, “said senior Angel Zarate after the game on Sunday. “Being with all my boys that I’ve been with for the past four years, we got our degree and now we get to celebrate with the sweep. It was pretty special. ”
UNC heads to Charlotte for the ACC Tournament starting on Tuesday. Seeding and scheduling will be official on Sunday, but the Tar Heels will be the No. 8 seed heading into the tournament. The three-way tie with FSU and Georgia Tech sorted out as Ga. Tech as the No. 7 seed, UNC as the No. 8 seed and FSU as the No. 9 seed.
The Tar Heels’ pool opponents will be No. 1 seed Virginia Tech and No. 12 seed Clemson. UNC was swept by the Hokies and did not play the Tigers in the regular season.
* Vance Honeycutt hit his 17th home run of the season making him one shy of Aaron Sabato’s UNC single-season freshman record.
* Danny Serretti’s 26-game hitting streak came to an end on Saturday. It was the longest streak since Kyle Seager had a 27-game hitting streak in 2008.