Best Games Of 2012-13: No. 3
Continuing today with entry No. 3, GoHeels.com is counting down the top 25 games of 2012-13 until we get to No. 1. To catch up on the previous great moments of the Tar Heel year, click here for entries 4-25.
No. 3: Carolina 12, Florida Atlantic 11 (13 inn.) - Baseball, June 3-4, 2013
"That might have been the greatest baseball game I've ever been a part of. I said after the 18-inning game against State that I didn't have any words to describe that game, and I certainly don't have any to describe this one."
When the coach with the highest winning percentage among active skippers in the country is at a loss for words, you know a game was special.
Mike Fox - he of the 1,233 wins over 30 seasons of college baseball - has seen a lot of games with dramatic finishes. But the 13-inning roller coaster ride of a regional final against Florida Atlantic may have topped them all in terms of pure, gut-wrenching drama.
The stage was set the night before when FAU, champions of the Sun Belt Conference who were playing out of the loser's bracket due to a surprising Friday loss to Towson, stunned the Tar Heels with a late home run to win 3-2 and force a Monday final. For Carolina fans, the loss dredged up memories of the 2012 postseason, when St. John's upset the hosts with a walk-off win in the winner's bracket game en route to claiming the regional title.
After a rain delay pushed the start of the Monday night finale to just after 8 p.m., UNC starter Chris Munnelly made quick work of the Owls in the top of the first and Landon Lassiter scored on a Colin Moran double to give the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead.
And even though Florida Atlantic took a brief 2-1 lead with a pair of runs in the second, Carolina immediately responded to tie the game and held a comfortable 6-2 lead heading into the eighth.
Trent Thornton had relieved Munnelly in the fourth and proceeded to mow down the Owls for four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five with a mere 40 pitches. But when Thornton showed signs of slowing down in the eighth by allowing a pair of leadoff singles, Carolina called on ACC Pitcher of the Year Kent Emanuel out of the bullpen. Emanuel, who had gotten the win in Friday's opener against Canisius, wriggled out of trouble, coaxing a harmless pop-up with runners on second and third and one out before getting Brendon Sanger to ground out to end the inning.
FAU ace Austin Gomber pitched around a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth before the game took a turn for the epic.
Corey Keller led off the ninth with a solo homer off Emanuel, the conclusion of a 10-pitch at-bat that saw Keller foul off four consecutive 3-2 pitches. After a fly out and a walk, Mitch Morales rolled into what looked like it would be a game-ending double play. But Ricky Santiago avoided a tag between first and second and Morales beat Mike Zolk's throw to first to bring the tying run to the plate. Emanuel then sandwiched a strikeout between two more walks to force in a run, and UNC went to Benton Moss to get the final out.
However, it wasn't meant to be for the Tar Heels - at least not yet - and Tyler Rocklein's grand slam on a 2-1 pitch stunned the Boshamer Stadium crowd into temporary silence and gave the Owls an improbable 8-6 lead with Hugh Adams - the Sun Belt leader in career saves - ready in the bullpen.
Cody Stubbs greeted Adams with a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth before Michael Russell singled him to third. Russell, the potential tying run, swiped second as Skye Bolt went down swinging for the first out of the frame. The stolen base would loom large, as Zolk's single through the right side scored both Stubbs and Russell to tie the game at 8.
Both teams went down quietly in the 10th and Chris McCue, who relieved Moss to start the 10th, also retired the side in order in the 11th. Carolina got the winning run to second in the bottom of the 11th, but Russell was stranded there to extend the game into Tuesday morning.
As the Tar Heels played beyond midnight for the second time in 10 days, it appeared that Florida Atlantic had finally landed the knockout blow in the 12th. After McCue hit Rocklein with one out and walked Keller with two down, catcher Levi Meyer connected on a three-run home run to give FAU an 11-8 lead. McCue escaped further trouble by striking out Santiago, but the Owls were now just three outs away from an incredible regional win.
Just as Stubbs had in the ninth, however, Lassiter led off the bottom of the 12th with a single to give the Tar Heel faithful a glimmer of hope that another rally was possible. Adams, who had blown the save in the ninth, was still in the game for FAU and the senior was struggling to find the zone. He walked Moran on six pitches before Brian Holberton singled to load the bases. Stubbs then drew a five-pitch walk to score Lassiter, making it 11-9 with the bases loaded and still no one out.
Michael Sylvestri, who got the win in relief on Sunday with two scoreless innings, replaced Adams and promptly walked Russell on five pitches to plate Moran. Bolt nearly tied it one batter later, but his laser back up the middle was snagged by Sylvestri. Zolk then came through with another game-tying hit, as his single to left scored Holberton before Russell was thrown out at the plate. Parks Jordan then grounded out to end the frame and push the contest to a 13th inning.
FAU put the go-ahead run on third in the top of the 13th thanks to a double and a ground out, but Reilly Hovis struck out ninth-inning hero Rocklein to strand a pair of Owls and the Tar Heels capitalized.
Lassiter, who finished the night 4 of 8 with three runs scored, singled with one out before Moran walked and Holberton was hit by a pitch. Finally, at 1:06 a.m. EDT, Stubbs capped his regional MVP performance with a slicing liner that landed just inside the foul line in left to score Lassiter and set off a Tar Heel celebration.
Many of the 3,517 fans in attendance stayed for the end, and after the late heroics in ACC Tournament wins over Clemson and NC State, they certainly had every reason to. The win set up a tantalizing Super Regional matchup with border rival South Carolina that eventually led to UNC's sixth College World Series trip in eight years. But as exciting as wins over the Gamecocks in Chapel Hill and wins over LSU and NC State were in Omaha, nothing could top the early-morning magic that saw the Tar Heels outlast Florida Atlantic.
No. 4: Carolina 18, Duke 17 - Men's Lacrosse, April 26, 2013
No. 5: Carolina 2, NC State 1 (18 inn.) - Baseball, May 25-26, 2013
No. 6: Carolina 2, BYU 1 (2OT) - Women's Soccer, Nov. 23, 2012
No. 7: Carolina 76, NC State 65 - Men's Basketball, Feb. 23, 2013
No. 8: Carolina 64, Miami 62 - Women's Basketball, Jan. 27, 2013
No. 9: Carolina 6, Syracuse 1 - Field Hockey, Nov. 16, 2012
No. 10: Carolina 1, Stanford 0 (OT) - Women's Soccer, Nov. 30, 2012
No. 11: Carolina 3, Florida State 1 - Volleyball, Nov. 3, 2012
No. 12: Carolina 3, Wisconsin 2 (8 inn.) - Softball, May 16, 2013
No. 13: Carolina 2, Duke 1 (OT) - Men's Soccer, Sept. 28, 2012
No. 14: Carolina 79, Maryland 76 - Men's Basketball, March 16, 2013
No. 15: Carolina 10, Maryland 8 - Men's Lacrosse, March 23, 2013
No. 16: Carolina 72, Maryland 65 - Women's Basketball, March 9, 2013
No. 17: Carolina 4, Maryland 3 (OT) - Field Hockey, Oct. 20, 2012
No. 18: Carolina 11, Northwestern 8 - Women's Lacrosse, Feb. 22, 2013
No. 19: Carolina 4, USC 3 - Women's Tennis, Feb. 9, 2013
No. 20: Carolina 3, California 1 - Volleyball, Nov. 29, 2012
No. 21: Carolina 11, Johns Hopkins 10 (OT), Men's Lacrosse, March 30, 2013
No. 22: Carolina 1, Fairleigh Dickinson 0 (OT) - Men's Soccer, Nov. 25, 2012
No. 23: Peacock Smashes NCAA Record - Swimming and Diving, Dec. 2, 2012
No. 24: UNC's Big Day at ACCs - Track and Field, April 19, 2013
No. 25: Carolina 30, NC State 6 - Wrestling, Feb. 1, 2013