DURHAM, N.C. – No. 4 seed Florida State’s offense attacked North Carolina starter Trent Thornton early and often in jumping out to an early lead and never looking back.
The 8-4 loss on Thursday dropped the Tar Heels to 0-2 in Pool A and quashed any hope of appearing in the ACC Tournament finals on Sunday.
Despite losing to top-seeded Louisville on Wednesday night, UNC was still alive entering the FSU matchup thanks to Clemson’s upset of the Cardinals earlier in the day.
The Seminoles, however, controlled their own fate and played that way off the bat. FSU’s Josh Delph crushed an 0-1 pitch for a double in the game’s opening at-bat and set the table for designated hitter Chris Marconcini to push an RBI single through the right side.
In the top of the second inning, the Seminoles drove in two more runs to extend the lead to 3-0. Thornton’s day ended in the sixth, finishing with a stat line of nine hits, five runs, 10 strikeouts and two walks in 5.1 innings.
Due to the injuries to the pitching staff, Thornton (3-7) has spent virtually the whole season pitching out of the bullpen. Thursday marked just his fourth start in 28 appearances in 2015.
“I was prepared to start today,” Thornton told reporters after the game. “I was really excited. Yeah, it took a little bit for me to get into a groove. But it came down to making pitches in big situations that I wasn’t able to do tonight and that was the difference in the game.”
While Thornton wasn’t stellar, the UNC offense struggled to solve Florida State starter Mike Compton (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 hits). The junior retired the first 11 Tar Heel batters he faced at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“We talked about you better swing at one of the first two pitches, because they’re going to be strikes. I think I’m correct on this: he had walked only two right-handed hitters the entire season,” Fox said. “… He was good the first time through the lineup. He’s good. He’s really good.”
UNC walked eight batters, while FSU walked just one.
By the time the bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning, it was too little, too late.
Following a triple from Tyler Ramirez and a sacrifice RBI from Alex Raburn, the Tar Heels put runners on first and second with two outs. Catcher Korey Dunbar then knocked in another run with a two-out RBI single to cut the deficit to 5-2.
A strikeout ended the scoring threat. FSU tacked on three more runs in the eighth to effectively put the game away.
UNC will close its ACC Tournament with Clemson on Friday at 3pm. If the Tar Heels can pick up a win, they should improve their odds to make the NCAA Tournament field.
“I have no idea about what the committee is thinking or any of that,” Fox said. “But I think it’s very important for us to win our last game before the NCAA tournament. If nothing else just to have a win for ourselves and for other people to look at.”
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