“It was just good that we had the mental toughness,” coach Donna Papa said. “It could have been really easy in game three to kind of just back off a little bit.”
Tenacious UNC ace Lori Spingola protected a pair of home runs by Kelly and slugger Haleigh Dickey to lift the Heels to a 3-2 win Friday night.
But when Spingola took the mound again early Saturday afternoon, the strike zone had shrunk to the size of a postage stamp. Three walks and an intentional walk — much to the vocal chagrin of Papa — fueled a three-run fifth inning for the Hokies (19-8, 1-4 ACC) en route to a 7-6 Virginia Tech win.
It wasn’t a fruitless loss — the Tar Heels (25-13, 6-3 ACC) were more assertive in the batter’s box. The team’s comfort showed with three home runs in the second game.
“I didn’t feel like we lost that game,” Papa said. “I don’t know that we could have done anything that much better to win that game.”
It’s the delicate balance in a sport of frustration — the line between smiles and frowns.
Dickey made sure her team found the winning side of that tightrope late Saturday afternoon. She launched a two-run homer to deep center in the bottom of the third, her second long ball in as many days.
And with that blast, the Tar Heels could exhale, relax. Their confidence with the bat, so fleeting, was restored.
Six home runs in three days will do that to a team.
“It’s a lot of pressure being in the meat of the lineup, but we have potential throughout the whole crew,” Dickey said. “It’s good to know when I’m up there that there’s other people who can do it.”
It won’t always be this simple, the players know — but it can be, Kelly said, with a bit of faith.
“Confidence is everything, especially (with) hitting,” Kelly said. “If you’re confident, you’re going to succeed.”
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