DURHAM, N.C.—Tyler Wilson threw his hands in the air and spiked his glove just before John Hicks wrapped him in a hug. Wilson had just struck out Florida State center fielder Mike McGee to give Virginia a 7-2 victory Sunday and its third ACC tournament championship, all of them coming at the expense of the Seminoles in Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
All seven of Virginia’s runs came on home runs over the “Blue Monster” in left field. While the Cavaliers are one of the nation’s best offensive teams, ranking 19th in runs in the regular season, they are not known for their power. Virginia had just 17 home runs entering the day, led by third baseman Steven Proscia with six.
So if the Cavaliers were going to become a bomb squad for the day, it only made sense for Proscia to deliver the most important blast. After Florida State tied the game at two in the top of the sixth, Proscia came up with runners on first and second and two outs. Seminoles starter Hunter Scantling threw Proscia a slider that he would later say was a good pitch. But Proscia made a better swing and lofted a fly ball that went just deep enough to clear the 32-foot-high left-field wall.
“I actually thought it was going to hit the wall so I was just trying to get on second,” Proscia said. “Then I heard the cheers so I assumed that it had gone over the fence.”
Proscia’s wasn’t the longest home run of the day for Virginia—both Hicks and shortstop Chris Taylor hit the office building that overlooks the field—but it did give the Cavaliers the lead for good. After ace Danny Hultzen held Florida State to two runs in six innings, relievers Justin Thompson, Kyle Crockett and Tyler Wilson combined for three shutout innings to seal the game.
Wilson went 6 1/3 innings in Virginia’s 13-1 victory against Wake Forest in the tournament opener Wednesday. But coach Brian O’Connor said he didn’t throw many pitches, and the coach felt comfortable going back to Wilson, who wanted the ball.
“I knew that he wanted the ball, and I know that it really matters to him—that he wanted to be on the mound at the end of winning the ACC championship,” O’Connor said. “So for what he’s done for the program he deserves that opportunity.”
The loss prevented Florida State from becoming the first team to repeat as ACC tournament champions since Wake Forest in 1999. While the Seminoles' performance in Durham might have secured it a national seed when the NCAA announces the full tournament field tomorrow, coach Mike Martin said he was disappointed to lose Sunday.
Martin thinks very highly of both teams, saying he believes Virginia will either be the No. 1 or No. 2 national seed tomorrow and calling this year’s Seminoles one of his favorites in 32 years of coaching.
“They do everything like men,” Martin said. “There ain’t no daggum excuses. There’s no pointing fingers. They’re men. They’re my kind of people.”
Virginia felt like it had questions of its own to answer in Durham after getting swept at North Carolina last weekend. Sweeping through four games in the tournament, including beating the Tar Heels last night, gives the Cavaliers plenty of confidence as they prepare for regionals.
“After last weekend in North Carolina, maybe there were some people who had some question on how we were going to rebound from a weekend like that,” O’Connor said. “The fact we won the conference championship of the toughest conference in the country and went 4-0 in the tournament and still don’t have 10 loses on the season is something that shows that these players come to play every day.”