Junior pitcher Danielle Spaulding did everything she could to help North Carolina stave off elimination against sixth-seeded Georgia in the NCAA Regionals on Saturday.
She hit a colossal home run. She started off the sixth inning having allowed only two runs.
But with UNC's NCAA hopes on the line it just wasn't enough. Georgia's Megan Wiggins hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh as the Bulldogs won 4-2 and advanced to the Super Regionals.
The Bulldogs (42-10) led off with a run in the bottom of the first inning.
The next three innings were scoreless until an out-of-the-park homer by Spaulding drove in two runs and gave the Tar Heels the edge at the top of the fifth.
Just before Spaulding stepped to the plate" Georgia relieved their starting pitcher in favor of Christie Hamilton — the same pitcher who shut out the Tar Heels in Friday's 6-0 loss against the Bulldogs.
""She has thrown me out the whole time" Spaulding said. I got one hit off of her yesterday and it was an inside pitch. Today I was hoping she would throw it again" and that's what she did.""
Spaulding also had a standout performance on the mound — holding the Bulldogs to two runs off five hits in the first six innings.
""Georgia's a very good hitting team" and at one point we were up 2-1 and she shut a lot of their good hitters down — especially a lot of their good lead off hitters" coach Donna Papa said.
The Tar Heel lineup, meanwhile, faced many of the same problems on the offensive end. Beside Spaudling's efforts, the other UNC batters only managed one hit on Saturday.
We just didn't get the hits we needed to score the runs"" Papa said of the team's effort.
Shortstop Christine Knauer also stood out with some defensive plays for the Tar Heels.
Georgia had runners in scoring position in the sixth inning, and Knauer preserved the tie by stopping a groundball up the middle.
Knauer said it was exciting to play under that kind of pressure.
In games like this" you know they're going to be putting pressure on just the same way we do so you have to stick with it and play through it" she said.
The Tar Heels were able to swing the bats during the rest of the tournament, garnering 30 runs between Thursday's 21-2 win against Campbell and Friday's 9-4 win against Radford.
Included in that offensive onslaught was a three-run homer by senior Lisa Norris, which broke the tie in the top of the sixth against the Highlanders. The home run was a season first for Norris.
But when it came down to Saturday's matchup, North Carolina's bats seemed to lose some of their fire.
Still, at the end of the tournament, Papa said she was impressed with the team's season.
I'm just really proud of our seniors"" she said. They did a great job.""
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