LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Cheered up by Florida State teammates after an error-prone moment, first baseman Drew Mendoza repaid his team with two bigger moments that helped the Seminoles hoist another championship trophy.
Mendoza followed Cal Raleigh’s go-ahead RBI hit with his second homer of the game during a five-run eighth inning that rallied Florida State past North Carolina 7-3 on Sunday and clinched its second Atlantic Coast Conference title in three years.
Mendoza’s seventh homer this season, a three-run shot to right, followed his solo blast to the same area in the seventh that drew the eighth-seeded Seminoles (39-20) within 3-2. His big hit came after Taylor Walls scored on a wild pitch and Raleigh singled to left in the next inning.
Mendoza also atoned for fielding and throwing errors that allowed one of North Carolina’s three second-inning runs. But only after the pep talk from teammates.
“As soon as I came off the field, Quincy (Nieporte) and Dylan Busby are in my ear telling me to relax, it’s early,” said Mendoza, who went 2 for 3 with two walks.
Teammates added, “You’re a freshman, you are going to come back, you’re going to have a big at-bat. And they were right, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
Alec Byrd (3-2) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win as three Seminoles relievers combined to hold the second-seeded Tar Heels (47-12) to three hits over the final seven innings.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever been more proud of a group of young men,” North Carolina coach Mike Martin said. “It was a good week of baseball for us.”
FSU earned the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid and awaits seeding when the pairings are announced Monday.
The Seminoles’ Jackson Lueck was voted tournament MVP.
Mendoza, Raleigh and Matt Henderson each had two hits for the Seminoles.
Josh Hiatt (4-2) took the loss for North Carolina.
FSU shut down the tournament’s highest-scoring team to win a seventh ACC championship, no easy feat considering the Tar Heels had won 18 of 21 coming in and scored 34 runs in the tournament alone — including consecutive 12-4 wins over North Carolina State and Miami to reach the final.
While North Carolina figured to eventually cool off, it seemed to have enough offense early on.
After Tyler Lynn drilled a 1-1 pitch over the right-field wall for the first run, Zack Gahagan singled to center and scored on Michael Busch’s double to the left-center gap. Busch then scored when Mendoza first bobbled Brian Miller’s two-out grounder, then overthrew Raleigh at home plate.
North Carolina seemed poised to add more in the bottom of the fourth when it loaded the bases off Andrew Karp. In came Seminoles freshman left-hander Drew Parrish, who struck out the side and escaped a deeper hole.
“I knew I couldn’t just throw soft cookies in there because they would capitalize,” Parrish said. “They are a good team.”
That missed opportunity was part of a drought by North Carolina that left an opening for Florida State to eventually capitalize.
“I believe (that) probably came back to bite us a little bit,” Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said. “You’ve got to give Parrish credit. He made some really good pitches and you don’t get many opportunities to extend the lead like that in the game.”