“When you get on the field, you flip that switch and you just change and become that warrior,” Papa said. “That was the mentality we had, that we were going to attack, protect.”
Though eight-seeded Boston College was the tournament’s lowest seed, it made that task difficult for the Tar Heels. Top-seeded UNC defeated the Eagles in a series the previous weekend, but dropped the second game 4-3 and squeaked out a 1-0 victory in the rubber match. Both teams knew what the other would bring to the table.
“Just from playing them last weekend, we kind of knew where they liked to hit the ball,” said UNC pitcher Lori Spingola, one of five Tar Heels selected to the All-ACC team. “So I wanted to throw inside to a girl who hit my outside pitch the game before. It was an advantage and a disadvantage that they knew what I was throwing.”
But Boston College was able to make frequent contact with her pitches, and seemed to fluster the sophomore right-hander at times. Spingola hit three batters and allowed three doubles. It wasn’t her best game, but Papa said that she wasn’t worried.
“When we score runs, she can at least relax a little bit,” she said. “I thought she was throwing hard, and she threw well, but she didn’t throw her best. But she doesn’t always have to do that when we’re hitting.”
Still, Papa said Boston College pitcher Morgan Kidd had given her team as much trouble as anyone they had faced. The Eagles’ pitching lacked velocity but still managed to stymie the Tar Heels, initially.
“It’s hard, especially if you want to get a hit, it’s hard to stay back and wait on that pitch,” Wheeler said. “We did adjust eventually, but it’s definitely harder for us to hit slow pitches.”
UNC still managed three home runs on the night. Consistent offensive production, in addition to Spingola’s experience, is what Papa said differentiates this squad from last year’s, which fell to Florida State in the ACC tournament final.
“All season, we’ve either come out really strong and scored a lot of runs early and kind of put a team away, or we’ve also been able to fight back from being down,” she said. “I’m very confident in this team and their ability to score runs and Lori’s ability to shut down hitters.”