OMAHA, Neb. — When Cody Stubbs sees the picture on his phone, he has only positive memories of the painful sequence.
The consistently clutch play of Stubbs, a senior first baseman and two-time transfer, has helped North Carolina return to the College World Series and a matchup with N.C. State on Sunday (3 p.m., ESPN2). He ranks seventh nationally with 97 hits, none bigger than his single in the 13th inning of a 12-11 win that ended the Chapel Hill Regional final against Florida Atlantic.
The opposite-field line drive from lefty-hitting Stubbs landed inches from foul territory, triggering an emotional reaction from first-base coach Scott Jackson and setting off a wild celebration.
"Jogging down to first, Coach Jackson was screaming at me to step on first," Stubbs said. "I’m like, ’I’m gonna, just give me a second.’ Then he tackled me.
"I have a picture on my phone, and it will be one of the fondest memories of all time. I have my hands up in the air, and all of a sudden I feel a ‘Whap’ on my back. The next thing I know, I’m lying face-first on the ground with like 2,000 pounds on top of me."
Stubbs was at Walters State (Tenn.) Community College in 2011 when fellow UNC seniors Chaz Frank and Chris Munnelly helped the Tar Heels reach the CWS.
Stubbs, whose father played at Vanderbilt, graduated from Tuscola High School in Waynesville and attended Tennessee as a college freshman, hitting .241 in 21 starts for a team that didn’t qualify for the SEC tournament. He transferred to Walters State, which is roughly 50 miles northeast of Knoxville and 70 miles from his hometown.
Stubbs attracted attention at the two-year school by leading a 43-15 team in batting average (.403), home runs (17) and RBIs (75). He considered continuing his college career at Louisville or Mississippi, but picked North Carolina — sticking with the Tar Heels after the Washington Nationals selected him in the 14th round of the draft.
Stubbs, who ranks first on UNC’s team this year in average (.366), second in RBIs (76) and third in homers (eight), hit .258 while starting every game as a junior. Batting fifth for the opening month of that season, he had 20 hits in his first 44 at-bats, but he bounced around in the order after enduring an 0-for-27 stretch in March.
Stubbs batted .164 in April, when he dropped to as low as No. 8 in the order, and he improved to .345 in May before going 1-for-15 in the NCAA tournament.
"We haven’t had many transfers, and he put so much pressure on himself because of that," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "To see him go from what he did last year to this year, he has a chance to get 100 hits, which is mind-boggling to me with the new bats and with what he did last year."
Teammates praise Stubbs for being the hardest worker on the team, and the game-winning hit against Florida Atlantic wasn’t his first experience with extra-innings success. He delivered a game-winning single in the 10th inning of a 3-2 win against VCU in late March and gave UNC the lead with an 18th-inning single in its ACC tournament victory against N.C. State.