CHAPEL HILL, NC -- Florida Atlantic University's baseball team, ranked No. 23 by Baseball America, responded to every challenge, but fell to the top-ranked University of North Carolina 12-11 after 13 innings of play.
The lead changed hands four times, including a six run ninth inning rally that made the score 8-6 in FAU's favor. UNC (55-9) hit a single to score two runs and tie the game at eight in the bottom of the ninth. The two squads would move through the 10th and 11th frames scoreless. FAU scored three in the 12th only to see the Tar Heels match the output in the bottom half of the inning to send the two teams to the 13th tied at 11.
A bases loaded, one out single by Cody Stubbs ended the thrilling game and the season for the Owls who won 14 of their last 16 to conclude the 2013 campaign with a 42-22 record. The NCAA Regional finale marked the second time under FAU Head Coach John McCormack's direction that FAU has advanced to the NCAA Regional final and the first 40+ win season. FAU was just one of two teams in the state of Florida to advance to the regional championship game.
UNC opened the game with two hits and a run in the bottom of the first. FAU responded in the second when Brendon Sanger drew a walk followed by a Corey Keller homer to left center, just missing the scoreboard.
The Tar Heels tied the game in the bottom half of the second on two hits and two FAU errors. But, the damage could have been much worse with Strawn getting out of a bases-loaded, no out jam.
Senior Nathan Pittman led off the third with a single down the right field line and moved to second on a wild pitch. Pittman was left on second after two popups and one by strikeout.
Strawn got two quick outs in the bottom of the third but saw the Tar Heels hit a two-out single, draw a walk and score on the second base hit of the inning. A wild pitch gave the Tar Heels a 4-2 lead before the final out of the inning was called in the third. UNC also got runners on but were held scoreless by Kevin Alexander, who relieved Strawn in the top of the fourth and made his third appearance of the tournament. The junior would allow a run in the fifth to give UNC a 5-2 lead and held the Tar Heels scoreless in the sixth while stranding two. Austin Gomber would pitch the final out of the inning but, not before another run was charged to Alexander. Alexander pitched 3.2 innings, allowed two earned runs on five hits and had two walks.
Pittman and Geoff Jimenez led off the eighth with back-to-back singles to left but UNC went to the pen for Trent Thornton, who came into the game with a 9-1 record and a 1.23 ERA. Owls moved to second and third on a groundout but that is where they were left.
Gomber would pitch a scoreless eighth and Keller would belt a lead-off homer in the ninth to pull within three. Mark Nelson drew a bases loaded walk to scratch across another run. A Tyler Rocklein grand slam put the Owls up 8-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
UNC would tie the game in the bottom of the frame. Both the Owls and the Tar Heels were scoreless through the next two innings. FAU plated three in the top of the 12th courtesy of a three-run homer by Levi Meyer. Holding a three-run lead, Adams returned to the bump to attempt to close out the game. UNC opened the frame with a single, followed by a walk and a single to load the bases. A walk was issued to bring home the first run of the inning for the Tar Heels and force the Owls to make a pitching change to Michael Sylvestri. UNC would tie the game but, the go ahead run was thrown out at the plate by FAU left fielder Geoff Jimenez and Sylvestri got a ground out to end the inning tied at 11.
FAU would challenge in the 13th with a one-out double by Pittman. A ground out and a walk placed runners on first and third with two outs but UNC held the Owls scoreless. Sylvestri (4-3) returned to the hill for his second inning of work on the day and sixth of the weekend. UNC's Landon Lester hit a one-out single to right field. He moved to second via a walk and to third after the batter was hit by a pitch. Cody Stubbs then hit the game winner that dropped just inside the left field line to secure the win and send UNC to the Super Regional.
FAU all-tournament team members as selected by the media were: Ricky Santiago (3B), Corey Keller (OF), and Nathan Pittman (OF).