North Carolina softball coach Donna Papa likes her team to imagine each hit pushing its opponent down.
And the Tar Heels used that mentality to claim a decisive 11-4 win against the Elon Phoenix Wednesday night at Anderson Stadium.
“I always talk about putting their head underwater and drowning them,” Papa said. “You just don’t give the other team time to breathe.”
The Tar Heels pushed Elon down early, scoring five runs in their first offensive outing.
But the team’s bats cooled off by the third inning, allowing Elon to start playing catch-up.
UNC replaced starting pitcher Lori Spingola with freshman Sarah Buchholz, and an emboldened Elon began a productive fifth inning.
The Phoenix scored three runs off as many hits, although they still trailed the Tar Heels by three.
The inning ended quickly once Spingola reclaimed the mound, forcing Elon batters to hit easy pop-ups to the infield.
Senior catcher Brittany McKinney said Spingola’s composure on the mound was a driving force behind getting the team back on track.
“Lori’s outstanding,” McKinney said. “She never takes a pitch off, and I’m very proud of her and the way she’s come through.”
But the Tar Heels weren’t content to rest on their three-run cushion. The Tar Heels answered back with four runs on two Elon errors.
North Carolina was able to find the holes on the field and capitalize on ground balls hit just beyond the infield.
McKinney earned two of her three RBI in the inning with a hit to center field.
By the end of the fifth inning, the Tar Heels had tallied 11 hits, a total Papa was more than happy with.
“Eleven hits and 11 runs, that’s a great day at the plate,” she said.
Going into the final frame, Spingola had only allowed two hits, and clean fielding by the Tar Heels secured the victory against the Phoenix.
Spingola continued to squeeze fly balls out of Elon, making the job easy for the defense. Short stop Logan Foulks caught two to speed up the inning.
“Lori’s screwball jams people, and her other strength is her rise ball, so some of their hitters were getting underneath,” Papa said.
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