CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina entered its regular-season finale here on Monday night against Florida State without having lost consecutive games this season and keeping that streak alive, perhaps as much as anything, inspired the Tar Heels in their final game before the start of the postseason.
After UNC scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 4-3 victory, Tar Heels coach Mike Fox spoke of a regular season that ended without a losing streak, and what it took for his team to keep coming back and answering defeats with victories.
It means my teams got a little back bone, Fox said. And they dont like to lose. They really dont. I mean, they really dont like to lose. And probably more than any team Ive been around.
The regular-season finale against the Seminoles (44-12) wasnt significant to the ACC standings, and technically was a non-conference game one that both Fox and Florida State coach Mike Martin agreed to play in recent weeks because both teams had space on their schedules. But the game took on added significance after No. 2 UNC (48-8) suffered an 8-7 defeat, in 11 innings, against Virginia on Sunday.
The loss was the Heels second in three games against the Cavaliers, and the fourth in seven games overall. With a defeat against No. 8 Florida State, UNC would have entered the postseason with its first losing streak of the season, and with losses in three of its past four games.
Instead, though, the Tar Heels will enter the ACC tournament amid the familiar feeling of victory. UNCs 48 victories are the most in school history, and the Heels won the ACC regular-season championship for the first time since 1990.
Their season has included many memorable moments and this was another one a victory against the top-10 Seminoles, who won the ACCs Atlantic Division.
It was, UNC third baseman Colin Moran said, a good win to get us going.
Thats a really good team over there and obviously we were fortunate to get a win against them and I think maybe get our confidence going up into the ACC tournament, Moran said.
Earlier in the day, Moran learned hed earned ACC Player of the Year honors. He endured a quiet night on Monday hitless in four at-bats but the middle and bottom half of the Tar Heels lineup compensated.
In the eighth, UNC catcher Brian Holberton broke a 3-3 tie with an RBI single to center that drove in Cody Stubbs. Holbertons hit came with two outs, and was the kind that Fox had been hoping to see for a while.
I think if this game doesnt do anything else, it gets Brian Holberton going a little bit, Fox said. Thats the first thing I thought when he got that base hit, is like wow, this is probably the guy on our team that needed to step up there and get a big hit for us.
In the fourth inning, Michael Russell, the UNC shortstop, drove in a pair of runs with single to right-center field. Six UNC pitchers, meanwhile, combined to limit the Seminoles to three runs on eight hits. Trent Thornton, a freshman who was named second-team All-ACC, didnt allow a hit and struck out three and recorded the final seven outs for the Tar Heels, who once again proved their resiliency.
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