CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 8 Florida State (44-12) closed out the 2013 regular season with a 4-3 loss to No. 2 North Carolina (48-8) on Monday evening in front on a national audience on ESPNU inside Boshamer Stadium.
"It was a heck of a ballgame," said head coach Mike Martin. "It was one that might have been meaningless to some but it wasn't meaningless to us and it wasn't meaningless to them. They got after it; they did an outstanding job and got the big hit when they needed it."
The Tar Heels scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Brian Holberton as the UNC catcher took the first pitch from Jameis Winston (1-1) to center field. Winston recorded back-to-back groundouts to start the inning and then got Cody Stubbs swinging on strikes but the Tar Heel first baseman reached base on a wild pitch. The play would come back to hurt the Seminoles as the next two UNC batters recorded hits including Holberton's RBI single to center.
"What happened was that there was a miscommunication between the pitcher and the catcher," said Martin. "He (Jameis) wiped the wrong way and it confused Stephen. Sure enough the ball was thrown into the dirt and they turned it into a run."
Trent Thornton, who entered the game with two outs in the top of the seventh and got the Tar Heels out of a bases loaded jam, worked the final 2.1 innings to run his record to 9-1 on the year. The freshman right hander did not allow a hit and walked one while striking out three.
Winston suffered his first collegiate loss as the freshman right hander finished the night allowing a run on three hits as he struck out two.
Bryant Holtmann and Dylan Silva, along with Winston, provided some great relief work for the Seminoles on Monday night. Holtmann threw two shutout innings as he did not give up a hit. He finished with two strikeouts and a walk. Silva replaced Winston in the eighth with runners at first and second and kept the deficit at one getting Mike Zolk to groundout to second to retire the side.
"He (Jameis) pitched extremely well," added Martin. "I was very pleased with what he has brought to our team this year. Silva got a big out there in the eighth and Bryant threw well; he didn't give up a hit in two innings. Our relief pitching was very impressive tonight."
In a back-and-forth game between two top 10 teams, Florida State came from behind twice Monday night erasing its largest deficit of two at 3-1 with a run in the fifth and sixth innings.
"It just goes to show that we are going to compete no matter what the situation," said Martin. "We did something tonight that was a little uncharacteristic but I'm just very pleased with the way we got after it."
John Sansone and Jose Brizuela led the Seminoles with two hits apiece, while Marcus Davis and Sansone were credited with an RBI each.
North Carolina struck first on a two-out RBI single by Skye Bolt in the bottom of the first. Chaz Frank led off the inning with a single to right off FSU starter Peter Miller, stole second and moved to third on a groundout to second. Frank would score the first run of the game on Bolt's single to center.
The Seminoles came right back in the top of the second to tie the game at one on a little two-out hitting of their own. Casey Smit drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a single to center by Winston. Sansone delivered the big two-out hit lacing a double down the line in left to score Smit from second.
UNC retook the lead in the fourth scoring a pair of runs on a two-run single by Michael Russell. The Tar Heels opened the inning with three consecutive singles as Russell's two-run base hit ended the night for Miller after 3.0 plus innings of work. Holtmann came on and retired the next three batters, all on groundouts, to keep the deficit at 3-1.
Miller allowed three runs on six hits as he walked one and struck out two.
FSU cut the deficit to 3-2 in the top of the fifth with another key two-out base hit. With Giovanny Alfonzo and DJ Stewart aboard after a bunt single and a walk, respectively, Davis took the first pitch he saw from Reilly Hovis through the right side of the infield for a base hit scoring Alfonzo from second as FSU drew within one of the North Carolina lead.
The two teams exchanged leadoff triples in the sixth but only Florida State converted the hit into a run. Brizuela took a 0-2 pitch from Hovis that one-hopped the wall in right center for his third triple of the season. He scored two pitches later on a wild pitch by the Tar Heel right hander to tie the game at 3-3.
In the bottom of the inning, Stubbs drilled a triple to the gap in left off Winston but was thrown out at the plate one pitch later as Russell hit a groundball to Smit at first who threw on to McGee for the out at home.
The Seminoles wasted a golden opportunity to take their first lead of the night leaving the bases loaded as the Tar Heels used four pitchers in the top of the seventh. Sansone opened the inning with a bunt single to third, Stewart followed two batters later with a single up the middle and Stephen McGee drew a two-out walk. Brizuela saw one ball from Mason McCullough before UNC made its fourth pitching change of the evening bringing on Thornton. Thornton got behind in the count with two straight balls before getting Brizuela to fly out to center on a 3-2 pitch to retire the side.