College baseball: Another Honeycutt homer, but UNC’s run ends

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

By Eric Olson
AP Sports Writer

 OMAHA, Neb.  — Connor Hults pitched 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief to thwart North Carolina’s comeback bid, and Jaxson West and Max Williams hit back-to-back homers in the ninth for insurance as Florida State beat the Tar Heels 9-5 in an elimination game at the College World Series on Tuesday.

The Seminoles (49-16) will play No. 1 national seed Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon. They would have to beat the Volunteers then and again Thursday to reach the finals for the first time since 1999.

The Tar Heels (48-16) lost consecutive games for the first time since mid-April and went 1-2 in their first CWS since 2018.

Though FSU and North Carolina are both from the Atlantic Coast Conference, this was their first meeting since the Tar Heels swept a three-game series to end the 2022 regular season.

Florida State led 3-1 after chasing both Aidan Haugh (4-3) and Matthew Matthijs in the third inning. The Tar Heels called on Dalton Pence, who extended his NCAA Tournament shutout innings streak to 14 1/3 innings before five singles in six at-bats led to four runs in the fifth inning, giving the Seminoles a 7-1 lead.

North Carolina scored four runs in the bottom half. With two runners on, Vance Honeycutt greeted Conner Whittaker with his fourth homer in five games, and Jackson Van De Brake followed with an RBI single to make it a two-run game.

Hults (3-1) got the last out of the inning and retired 12 of 15 batters in his longest outing of the season. He never was in trouble. Honeycutt singled leading off the seventh, but was erased in a rundown between first and second. After Van De Brake doubled in the eighth, Hults coaxed two groundouts. He walked Alex Madera to start the ninth, but sandwiched a strikeout between two groundouts to end the game.

West, the No. 9 batter for FSU, had a career-high four hits in five at-bats. His homer was his second in four games and just his third of the season.

Williams hit his fifth homer in eight NCAA Tournament games and has 14 for the season.