CHAPEL HILL — In danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, the UNC Tar Heels needed a strong performance from their offense in the second game of their three-game series with the Florida State Seminoles.
But for the second straight game, they didn’t get it. The pitching was just as bad and the Seminoles coasted to a 10-2 win.
“This day in time, especially the way we are offensively, if you’re not a good offensive team, you’re going to have a hard time scoring runs,” North Carolina baseball head coach Mike Fox said.
What has usually been a strong suit of the Tar Heels failed them. The Tar Heels gave up 12 hits, walked eight and hit three batters. It appeared that the bats for Tar Heels (29-21, 13-13 ACC) would come alive after a strong fourth inning. But the momentum changed when they gave up three runs on four hits in the top of the fifth inning.
After a strong pitching performance from projected first-rounder in June’s MLB draft Luke Weaver, the No. 4 Seminoles (39-11, 19-7 ACC) sent sophomore pitcher Mike Compton to the mound. He was on target all day. Compton pitched eight innings giving up only two runs on eight hits. He had five strikeouts, no walks and threw 65 strikes in 92 pitches.
“He doesn’t give you much breathing room, even when he’s behind,” Fox said. “He just comes in there and makes you hit it. Just enough mix throwing to both sides of the plate like we thought he would. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys but he makes you hit it and they make plays behind him.”
“He’s just good,” he added. “He’s just a good college pitcher.”
The Tar Heels scored two runs on four hits to give them a 2-1 lead over the the Seminoles.
A shallow fly single by UNC’s senior first baseman Parks Jordan scored right fielder Tyler Ramirez for UNC’s first run of the game. Second baseman Alex Raburn followed that up with a two-out single that scored Jordan Parks for a 2-1 lead over the Seminoles.
But that would be the final run the Tar Heels would score.
“They were an aggressive team, and they like to swing early in the counts,” Compton said. “They put the ball in play a lot but I got the ground balls I needed when I needed them.”
“It was about bearing down, making better pitches and letting the defense play.”
The Seminoles responded in the top of the fifth inning with four hits of their own that translated to three runs. Junior pitcher Benton Moss struggled Saturday. He walked three batters and hit two and was quickly taken out at the start of the fifth inning after walking the first batter.
That’s when the onslaught began.
Florida State left fielder D.J. Stewart hit a double to the left field corner, putting runners on second and third. Three back-to-back-to-back singles plated three runs and the Seminoles took the lead 4-2.
From there they coasted.
The Tar Heels went through six pitchers, four of whom gave up two runs or more.
College football star and Florida State outfielder and pitcher Jameis Winston got his first action in the series Saturday, hearing cheers from both Seminoles and Tar Heels fans. But he struck out swinging on four pitches in his first at-bat and popped out in his second.
The Tar Heels, who have become an annual College World Series contender, need a strong finish to the regular season to avoid missing the NCAA tournament. They are fifth in the overall standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The final game of the series will be on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We’ve got to play a little better,” Fox said. “We’ve get off to a good start tomorrow. If they beat us and out-hit us that’s one thing but we just have to play a little bit better.”
Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1