The College World Series began with a record-tying 4 ACC teams. Five days later, only 1 remains.

Florida State became the last team standing by beating North Carolina 9-5 on Tuesday.

It was the Seminoles’ 2nd straight elimination game victory against a conference rival and it advances them into the semifinal round of the national championship tournament. They’ll have to beat top-seeded Tennessee twice, starting Wednesday afternoon, to earn a shot at the title.

That’s a big ask under any circumstances. But against a Volunteers team that has lost back-to-back games only once all season – to Alabama in mid-March – the task becomes as difficult as trying to hit a 100 MPH fastball with a broomstick rather than a bat.

Not impossible. Just not probable.

And yet, of the 4 ACC teams that began the week with high hopes in Omaha, Florida State is the one best equipped to pull it off.

The Seminoles aren’t just the last conference team standing. They’re also the league’s best last chance at preventing yet another all-SEC championship series matchup.

Tuesday’s win against the Tar Heels provides the reason why.

It’s going to take runs, a lot of runs, to beat Tennessee once.

Let alone twice.

Especially coming through the loser’s bracket, at a stage of the tournament in which pitching starts to run thin.

And you can’t just do that with 1 or 2 hot players the way UNC tried to in Omaha. Of the 9 runs the Tar Heels mustered in their 3 CWS games, leadoff man Vance Honeycutt either drove in or scored 5 of them.

Contrast that to the Seminoles, who are averaging 9 runs in their 1st 3 games at Charles Schwab Stadium even though their biggest star, ACC Player of the Year James Tibbs III, has yet to get fully untracked at the plate.

They’ve done it with a balanced attack that has gotten significant contributions from literally top to bottom. Tuesday, leadoff man Max Williams went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and a homer while 9th man Jaxson West was 4-for-5 with 2 RBIs and a long ball of his own.

The middle of the order has also been productive, with No. 5 hitter Jaime Ferrer becoming the 1st player since 1998 to drive in 4 or more runs in consecutive games at the CWS while becoming the 6th hitter in school history to hit at least 3 homers in Omaha.

It’s going to take more of the same to have any shot at outscoring a Tennessee offense that is every bit as explosive.

And even more intimidating.

The Volunteers don’t just lead the nation in home runs. Their 177 bombs are 16 more than anyone else in the country has hit.

Star 2nd baseman Christian Moore might not generate the same kind of attention as Florida’s Jac Caglianone or Georgia’s Charlie Condon, but he’s put up numbers just as eye-popping with 33 homers, 72 RBI and 79 runs scored while hitting .384. He’s already made history in Omaha by becoming only the 2nd player in CWS history to hit for the cycle during Tennessee’s earlier meeting with FSU.

And he’s not even close to the only one doing the mashing.

Moore has 3 teammates with 20-plus homers this season, with another just 1 away from joining them. In 2 games so far this week, the Vols have combined to score 18 runs and his 4 homers in a ballpark that’s supposedly hard to hit out of.

They pose a daunting challenge to a pitching staff that may be running out of viable options, even after Connor Hults did what he could to save arms by throwing 4.1 innings of 2-hit shutout relief to earn the win on Tuesday.

“I recognize the difficulty of beating that team,” coach Link Jarrett said after taking down the Tar Heels. “It takes everything you’ve got. You have to finish. You have to defend. You have to execute pitches. And you have to be versatile and compete offensively to figure out a way to do it.”

The Seminoles succeeded in accomplishing most of those goals the 1st time they saw the Vols in Omaha.
They overcame a shaky start defensively to bang out 13 hits, steal 4 bases and build an 11-8 lead through 8 innings.

The only thing they couldn’t do is finish, although they might have if not for a controversial checked swing ruling that helped Tennessee extend what turned out to be a 4-run game-winning 9th inning rally.

To their credit, the Seminoles haven’t let that 12-11 loss beat them twice. They’ve bounced back to beat Virginia and UNC to earn a shot at revenge.

“Can’t wait,” Jarrett said, adding that Tennessee is one of the best college teams he’s ever seen. “That game was very close to being pendulum swung our way and it did not.”

Though the odds are squarely against them, Jarrett and his Seminoles now find themselves in a position to swing that pendulum back in their favor.

And at the same time, save a little face for their conference.