Haleigh Dickey hit a grand slam to give North Carolina a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday, but the first inning was much closer than the 8-0 final score may suggest.
Although South Carolina was shut out in only four and a half innings, the Gamecocks threatened to break it open to start the game.
The only problem was that they couldn’t get a hit. UNC starter Lori Spingola, kept them hitless, notching her second no-hitter of the season.
In the first inning, USC’s Samie Garcia walked to first base, then stole second. After a popout, Evan Childs walked to first and Kaela Jackson followed after being hit by a pitch.
With the bases loaded and only one out, Spingola struck out USC’s Dana Hathorn and Kaitlin Westfall to end the scoreless inning.
“Lori did a great job of maintaining her composure, she stayed within herself,” coach Donna Papa said.
“The top of (USC’s) lineup is tough. They have some good numbers and some good speed. So for us to shut them down (in the top of the first inning) and then come back and score those four runs, that set the tone for the game.”
In the bottom of the first, Kelli Wheeler started off the Tar Heels with a single past third base and then a stolen second base.
“Kelli sets the table for us,” Papa said. “Whenever she gets a hit, that makes us go.”
Second batter Amy Nece walked to first, and designated player Ally Blake singled to right field and put the Tar Heels in a tables-turned, bases-loaded position.
Wheeler was thrown out at home on the next play, but then Dickey went to bat and sent the ball over the fence for a grand slam.
“We did to them what they wanted to do to us,” Papa said. “And what they’d had the opportunity to do.”
South Carolina pitcher Audrey Broyles followed Spingola’s suit and struck out the next two Tar Heels at bat, Constance Orr and Jordan Scarboro, to end the inning.
Spingola went back to the mound at the top of the second inning and struck out three more Gamecocks to solidify the lead, then North Carolina went scoreless in the bottom of the second.
Spingola kept USC from even getting on base in the third inning. And UNC’s defense held the Gamecocks scoreless in the fourth, while the Tar Heels tacked on four more runs in the third and fourth.
South Carolina’s inability to score in the top of the fifth ended the game early, but for UNC, the day of the win was as notable as its magnitude.
“The motivation the girls have is from last year,” Papa said. “We didn’t get into regional and one of the things we kind of use as our war cry is these mid-week games are pivotal for us because we had a couple of bad losses last year, and that’s what kept us out. The mid-week games were why we didn’t make it.”
Papa said that the mid-week game conversation is one that the Tar Heels have, and will continue to have, throughout the season as a constant motivation for meeting post-season goals.
But Dickey and her teammates found even more motivation from last year because of the 1-0 game UNC dropped to South Carolina and because of their personal history with head coach Beverly Smith and assistant Janelle Breneman.
“Last year, South Carolina beat us so this year was more of a revenge thing,” Dickey said. “And those two coaches used to coach some of us.
“It was extra revenge and we were pretty hyped for the game. Today wasn’t a normal weekday game.”
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