UNC softball rebounds from slow start to finish weekend 3-2

While the rest of Louisiana is gearing up for Mardi Gras, the No. 22 North Carolina softball team has another reason to celebrate after winning three of five games in the Tiger Classic at LSU this weekend, including a win against No. 10 LSU.

The Tar Heels suffered through a rough start on opening day Friday, losing to Tulsa 3-1 and getting swept away by LSU 8-0. Coach Donna Papa chalked the losses up to the transition into regular season games.

“Opening up the first day, it’s always one of those where as much as you try to prepare for it, deep down, the kids are still a little tight, a little nervous,” Papa said.

Papa said she knew that they were going up against a quality bullpen in both games, but lost opportunities were what really killed the team.

“We faced good pitching right off the bat,” Papa said. “And we had some good at-bats, we had some opportunities in those games, and we weren’t able to push the runs through.”

The 28-year coach said that on Friday, while the Tar Heels may have done a good job in getting runners on base, their opponents made the most of their opportunities.

“We didn’t finish, and they did,” Papa said. “That was really the difference.”

But the losses Friday motivated UNC for the rest of the weekend.

“We just came back Saturday with a purpose,” senior outfielder Tisha Mahon said. “We’re going to forget about yesterday and just really move forward.”

North Carolina faced Purdue in the first game Saturday, which was pushed into extra innings when the Boilermakers tied the game at one in the 7th inning.

In extra innings, Mahon advanced freshman Erin Satterfield to second base, and then junior Amy Nece drove a ball to right field for a walk-off double.

The Tar Heels second game of the day was not as tight as the first — UNC blew out Hampton University 10-0.

“We just told the girls, ‘Be confident in how we’ve prepared and just relax and be who you are, because we haven’t seen who you are yet,’” Papa said.

North Carolina closed up the weekend with a rematch against LSU, and the team had better luck with the Tigers this time.

“LSU is definitely a great team and I think the first game, it went their way — everything went their way,” junior pitcher Lori Spingola said. “So I think our second game we came back with a vengeance.”

The Tigers gained an early 1-0 lead, but UNC did not allow a repeat of Friday’s game and responded with a three-run sixth inning and took the game 3-1.

“The girls really wanted this win against LSU, and it was big for our program for sure,” Papa said.

While North Carolina was able to bounce back Saturday and Sunday, Papa believes that the tournament was a good opportunity to discover what areas the team needs to work on.

“We still need to be tough, mentally tougher, in some situations,” Papa said. “That’s one of the things we’ve been working on. That was something that we didn’t do as well last year. But sometimes it takes a couple of breaks here and there for you to push over that edge and get to where you need to be.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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