Playing with a chip on its shoulder following a 2-1 series loss against Florida State, the North Carolina softball team beat Virginia three times for its first sweep of the season.
“(After the FSU series) we knew that we had to win this one regardless of whether it was two games out of three or all three,” coach Donna Papa said in a phone interview. “We just needed to make some adjustments offensively and defensively to be better against UVa.”
After a scoreless first and second inning to start Friday’s series opener, senior second baseman Ally Blake sparked the Tar Heels’ offense by hitting a solo homer to right center field with two outs in the top of the third. Haleigh Dickey soon followed with a two-RBI single, giving UNC a 3-0 lead.
After three consecutive UVa. batters reached base, Giannina Cipolloni brought in two runs, cutting the UNC lead to one.
In the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, the tying run on third and the game-winning run on second, Spingola struck out pinch hitter Erica Cipolloni to seal the 3-2 game one victory. The timely strikeout was Spingola’s 12th of the day and 195th of the season.
“I just tried to stay confident and get each pitch in there for a strike,” Spingola said. “It was important for me to not really think about the runners on base but to just focus on getting them out.”
In the 2-0 second game, Spingola picked up her 20th victory and 10th shutout of season.
“Lori did an outstanding job this weekend,” Papa said.
Through six and a half innings of game three, the road toward the series sweep looked quite promising for UNC, which jumped out to an early 4-0 lead powered by a two-run bomb to left field from Dickey.
After the Tar Heels scored three more runs in the top of the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead, the Cavaliers charged back in the bottom of the seventh by scoring three runs off of four hits on UNC starting pitcher Ashley Bone.
With only one out, Papa went to sophomore pitcher Sara Buchholz, who walked the first batter she faced, putting runners on first and second for UVa.’s Giannina Cipolloni. Following a groundout to first, Cipolloni’s younger sister Erica homered to left field, cutting the lead to only one run.
With the game on the line, Spingola came into the game and through in the clutch by striking out Megan Harris to give North Carolina the 7-6 game three win and 3-0 series sweep — a big step forward for a team with a tough week ahead.
“Being able to play three games on the road and come out with wins sets the stage for us really well as we get ready to go into a series against in-state, down-the-road rival N.C. State next weekend,” Papa said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
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