College World Series: North Carolina vs. Florida State, updates, scores, highlights ::

College World Series: North Carolina vs. Florida State, updates, scores, highlights ::

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — North Carolina could not find any more postseason magic, stymied by Florida State reliever Connor Hults.

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 a College World Series elimination game.

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.

“We had one of the best teams in the country and our goal was to win this whole thing,” the Tar Heels’ Casey Cook said. “The postseason, we didn’t hit how we necessarily wanted to. We didn’t get what we wanted, but we have zero regrets. We gave everything we had.”

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.

“Can’t wait,” Seminoles coach Link Jarrett said.

FSU took a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth against Tennessee in its CWS opener last Saturday. A check-swing call that didn’t go the Seminoles’ way — it would have ended the game if it had — and the single by Dylan Dreiling that followed produced a 12-11 walk-off win for the Volunteers.

Hults was the guy who threw the pitch to Dreiling, the only batter he faced.

“Hults’ response — four-plus innings? Amazing,” Jarrett said.

The junior left-hander relied on a sharp fastball and mixed it effectively with off-speed pitches, something he had spoken about with pitching coach Micah Posey.

“Being able to locate the fastball in any count was new to my game,” Hults said. “I haven’t done it in a few weeks. It’s there. But me and coach Posey had been talking about mixing some more fastball and changeups to start getting hitters off the curveball. I was able to locate some fastballs and expand on my off-speed when needed, and that worked out in our favor.”

When he finished the eighth, he had no doubt in his mind he would go back out for the ninth, and he let Jarrett know it.

“Don’t even think about it,” Hults told Jarrett, according to the coach. “There were some other words mixed in there. I’m so happy for him. It’s hard to walk off that field the way it went (Saturday) night. You guys all saw it and know it. And he really answered.”

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.

“That’s how the team has been all year — no quit,” Honeycutt said. “That’s a credit to how we’re trained, how we’re coached and the character of the guys in the locker room.”

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.

Scoring summary

Top of ninth: The Seminoles tacked on some insurance runs with back-to-back home runs by Jaxson West and Max Williams. Florida State 9, North Carolina 5.

Bottom of fifth: The Tar Heels battled back behind star Vance Honeycutt. Honeycutt hit a three-run for the Tar Heels, driving in Alex Madera (single) and Colby Wilkerson (walk). Honeycutt is the program’s leader in single season, all-time and postseason home runs.

Jackson Van De Brake singled home Parks Harber, who reached on a single. Florida State 7, North Carolina 5.

Top of fifth: The Seminoles strung together six hits — a double and five singles — to score four runs and extend their lead.

James Tibbs III, the ACC player of the year, doubled to start the inning. He advanced to third on a single by Jaime Ferrer. Tibbs III scored on a single by Daniel Cantu, and Ferrer scored on a single by Alex Lodise. Cantu scored on a single by Jaxson West, and Lodise scored on a single by Max Williams. Florida State 7, North Carolina 1.

Bottom of third: Casey Cook doubled, scoring Vance Honeycutt with UNC’s first run. Honeycutt reached on a double with two outs. Florida State 3, North Carolina 1.

Top of third: The Seminoles scored two runs without getting a hit in the inning. Florida State loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch by UNC starter Aidan Hough. Florida State’s Jaime Ferrer then drew a bases-loaded, one-out walk off UNC relief pitcher Matthew Matthijs. Daniel Cantu then hit a sacrifice fly off UNC reliever Dalton Pence to score James Tibbs III. Florida State 3, North Carolina 0.

Top of second: Second baseman Drew Faurot’s two-out single scored left fielder Jaime Ferrer with the game’s first run. Ferrer walked and advanced to second on a single by first baseman Daniel Cantu. Florida State 1, North Carolina 0.


North Carolina will meet ACC rival Florida State in a College World Series elimination game Tuesday afternoon.

The Tar Heels, (48-15) the No. 4 national seed, defeated Virginia in their first game in Omaha, but dropped a 6-1 decision to Tennessee on Sunday.

Florida State (48-16) lost its opener to Tennessee, but rebounded to eliminate Virginia on Sunday.

It is the first meeting between conference foes since 2022. The teams played in the 1989 College World Series with Florida State winning 4-2 and eliminating the Tar Heels.

Right-hander Aidan Hough (4-2, 4.53 ERA) starts for UNC, while Florida State turns to left-hander Andrew Armstrong (5-0, 6.98 ERA).

UNC is making its first appearance in the College World Series since 2018 and its eighth since 2006. The Tar Heels are 9-5 in elimination games at the CWS since 2006.

Center fielder Vance Honeycutt hit is 75th career home run against Tennessee. He is the single-season, all-time and NCAA Tournament leader in home runs for the Tar Heels.

Vance Honeycutt

College World Series schedule

June 14

Game 1: North Carolina 4, Virginia 3

Game 2: Tennessee 12, Florida State 11

June 15

Game 3: Kentucky 5, NC State 4 (10 innings)

Game 4: Texas A&M 3, Florida 2

June 16

Game 5: Florida State 7, Virginia 3 (Virginia eliminated)

Game 6: Tennessee 6, North Carolina 1

June 17

Game 7: Florida 5, NC State 4 (NC State eliminated)

Game 8: Texas A&M 5, Kentucky 1

June 18

Game 9: Florida State 9, North Carolina 5 (North Carolina eliminated)

Game 10: Florida vs. Kentucky (postponed due to weather)

June 19

Game 10: Florida vs. Kentucky, 11 a.m. | ESPN

Game 11: Florida State winner vs. Tenneessee, 3 p.m. | ESPN

Game 12: Florida-Kentucky winner vs. Texas A&M, 7 p.m. | ESPN

June 20

Game 13 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD, 2 p.m. | TBD

Game 14 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD, 7 p.m. | TBD

June 22

MCWS Final Game 1: TBD vs. TBD, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN

June 23

MCWS Final Game 2: TBD vs. TBD, 2 p.m. | ABC

June 24

MCWS Final Game 3 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD, 7 p.m. | ESPN