May 30, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -Florida State coach Mike Martin finally has a trophy to bring home from North Carolina.

One of his players might have picked up another souvenir - a bruise or two after an unnerving collision at home plate.

The Seminoles claimed their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2004 on Sunday by beating North Carolina State 8-3, but not before the Wolfpack's backup catcher was taken off the field in an ambulance and suffered what ACC officials termed a concussion when he was rolled by a Florida State baserunner.

Rafael Lopez drove in three runs, including a tiebreaking single in the seventh that put the fifth-seeded Seminoles (42-17) ahead for good, and Jayce Boyd had two RBIs. They claimed their fifth ACC title and first since 2004, finally winning one in the state of North Carolina after coming up empty on three tries in Durham, including last year.

"We came in, a little bit of a struggle," Martin said. "I was just so pleased with how our young men bounced back, got the job done. ... We're just very proud that we got our ears pinned back (after being swept last week at Clemson). We didn't feel sorry for ourselves. We fought back."

But this one took a scary turn in the eighth when N.C. State catcher Chris Schaeffer was injured in a collision at home plate with Florida State baserunner James Ramsey, who was trying to score on a sacrifice fly. Schaeffer had positioned himself several feet up the third-base line to take the throw from shallow right field and was run into by Ramsey.

"All of a sudden, you just hit somebody, and you're not really thinking anything about it. It's just a play that happens in baseball," Ramsey said. "You're just playing the game."

Schaeffer laid motionless near the plate for 10 minutes - coach Elliott Avent said his catcher was temporarily "knocked out" - and was taken by ambulance to a Greensboro hospital. The ACC issued a statement afterward saying that Schaeffer was awake and joking with hospital staff, and that the severity of his injury - or if anything else was hurt - wouldn't be determined until further tests were completed.

Adding insult to injury, plate umpire David Savage later told a pool reporter that Schaeffer was called for obstruction because he didn't have the ball but was blocking the baseline.

"They made what they thought was the best decision, and we respect that, but we totally disagree with it," Avent said. "I said (to the umpires at the time), 'I have a bunch of mad, mad guys.' And I tell you, I may be never so proud of them (than) the way they came out and finished that game, even though it didn't go the way we wanted it to. They finished with class."

Andrew Ciencin homered and drove in two runs for the seventh-seeded Wolfpack (38-22). They were denied their fifth ACC title and first since 1992.

Mike McGee hit his team-leading 14th home run and Sean Gilmartin (7-7) worked 3 1-3 innings of relief for the victory for Florida State.

The Seminoles got plenty of pop from the bottom of their order, with the bottom three driving in seven runs. Boyd's sacrifice fly in the seventh scored Ramsey and advanced Stephen Cardullo to third. After an intentional walk, Lopez lofted an RBI single that made it 4-3.

Florida State added four runs in the eighth, starting when McGee led off with his drive off loser Grant Sasser (3-4). Ramsey scored following his collision with Schaeffer, and Lopez followed that with a two-run single to stretch the lead to five.

Ciencin twice gave the Wolfpack the lead. His drive leading off the second put them up 1-0, and his single in the fifth scored Dallas Poulk made it 3-2.

N.C. State didn't have the luxury of much turnaround time after a long Saturday at the ballpark. The Wolfpack beat Georgia Tech in the completion of a suspended game early that afternoon, then earned their spot in the championship game with a 10-inning victory over Virginia Tech that wasn't over until 1:25 a.m. - less than 12 hours before the title game.

"We didn't know what time of day it was," Avent quipped. "Kind of like being in Vegas - no clocks."

Meanwhile, the Seminoles had plenty of time to rest up - they wrapped up pool play Friday and were off Saturday while Virginia sent them into the title game by beating Miami.