June 4, 2013


A Great Showcase for College Baseball

By Sean Ryan, CBI Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


By the time interviews were over and he settled into his hotel room, it was 3:30 in the morning. He put his head down for about an hour before rolling around in his bed. “What ifs” filled his head.


“I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Florida Atlantic coach John McCormack (left) said.


Less than 12 hours earlier, McCormacks’s Owls pushed North Carolina to the brink, twice seemingly punching the Tar Heels into submission. North Carolina, the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 national seed, punched back, ultimately knocking FAU out of the tournament in the bottom of the 13th inning, two minutes shy of five hours from the first pitch, with a 12-11 decision.


In a display of all that is right about college baseball – filled with heart, passion and tenacity – the Owls and Tar Heels played an epic game, a game whose late-innings drama was seen across the country on ESPNU.


“It was a great showcase for college baseball,” McCormack said.


Prepping to board a flight home to Boca Raton, Fla., McCormack, on that hour of sleep, estimated he had received 400 to 500 texts and emails. Messages from college coaches. Messages from alums he’s never met, telling him how proud they were to have gone to Florida Atlantic.


“It’s a staggering amount,” he said, clearly touched by the outpouring of support.


UNC led 6-2 entering the ninth, but the Owls rallied for six runs, the big blow being Tyler Rocklein’s grand slam off Benton Moss. FAU, which used a late three-run homer from Ricky Santiago to beat the Tar Heels 3-2 the night before, needed three outs to secure a berth in the Super Regionals.


The Tar Heels, down 8-6, still had some fight.


Mike Zolk singled in a pair of runs off Hugh Adams, a redshirt senior who missed all of last year because of an injury and entered with 28 saves the past two healthy seasons, including No. 18 this season against the Tar Heels the night before.


In the 12th, Owls catcher Levi Meyer blasted a three-run homer to left off Chris McCue. Again, FAU was three outs away. And again, UNC fought back. Cody Stubbs and Michael Russell walked with the bases loaded to make it 11-10, and Zolk delivered again with a single to left off Michael Sylvestri. Brian Holberton scored easily, but Stubbs was thrown out at the plate by Geoff Jimenez. Sylvestri worked out of the inning to force a 13th inning with the game tied at 11.


“It was like a roller coaster,” said McCormack, who added that after taking in the lead, he started thinking his team was headed to Super Regionals and quickly changed to how to get out of the inning. “They were fighting their ass off, too.”


UNC loaded the bases again and won it on Stubbs’ single that whispered the left-field line to score Landon Lassiter. The Tar Heels avoided being knocked out of the Regional round for the second straight year; the Owls were left to wonder.


“You talk to your guys about fighting and not giving up,” McCormack said. “It makes you feel proud as a coach that you’ve gotten through to them.”


(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations)