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The Daily Tar Heel

Spring Sports - Softball Looks For 1st Postseason Berth

The Tar Heels set new totals in home runs, hits, at bats, runs scored, doubles and total bases.

But something was missing.

Despite inking the new records and going 47-17 -- UNC's best record since the inception of fast pitch in 1984 -- the the Tar Heels again missed out on NCAA postseason participation.

In 2001, UNC will look to buck the trend and reach the postseason plateau for the first time in the program's history.

"The NCAA tourney is big. We felt like we didn't get respect last year," UNC coach Donna Papa said. "But to do that, the players know we have to take it one game at a time.

"The key will be for us to not only beat the teams we are supposed to beat, but to win against the teams we are probably not supposed to beat."

North Carolina returns its two pitching aces from 2000, senior Radara McHugh and sophomore Michael Parrott.

McHugh will look to pick up where she left off in 2000, a campaign in which the righthander went 23-6 with a 1.07 ERA that led the ACC.

McHugh and fellow hurler Parrott (14-4, 1.45 ERA in 2000) give UNC a formidable duo that is among the conference's best.

Their contrasting styles -- McHugh's low ball specialty with Parrott's riser -- will look to fool opponents' thinking at the plate.

"(Michael) wants to go out and throw her heart out," McHugh said. "(Our contrasting styles) help because they see curveballs and low fastballs, but they also see riseballs which teams aren't expecting."

On the offensive side of the diamond, the Tar Heels return six of eight starting position players from last year's squad.

Their overall batting average of .317 was good for fifth in the nation.

North Carolina's top three sluggers -- Michelle Semmes, Kelly Ramsey and Natalie Anter -- return to reprise their bat work.

"I feel like we have a lot more speed; I feel like one through nine, we are very strong," Anter said.

"You are a lot more relaxed knowing that if you don't get the job done, the person behind you will. Everyone knows that so you aren't pressing so much."

The losses of center fielder Jen Klesaris and second baseman Crystal Henderson left voids in defense, batting and leadership.

Filling the holes are speedy freshmen Natashalyn Snipes and Dionne Streete, two players that give the squad a new element.

"As a team, we have no misunderstanding of where we are headed this season. We set our goals from the beginning," Streete said.

"If we play to the level of our teammates, then we are playing as a team -- the whole team -- and then we will go far."

In the fall, North Carolina is set to open its new softball complex.

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Although initially planned to open April 6, a setback in the construction process will push back the stadium's opening until fall.

So for now, the players will continue to call Finley Field home, where North Carolina finished a stellar 19-1 last season.

Pivotal games at home will come against preseason ACC-favorite Florida State.

The Seminoles' two one-run victories against North Carolina (6-2 in the ACC) last season likely cost the Tar Heels a postseason bid.

"We like being the underdog," Papa said.

"I think the seniors know how big FSU is."