North Carolina softball stayed red hot in ACC play this weekend, breezing to a shortened 9-0 victory in game one before fighting to hold on to an 8-7 win in extra innings in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader at Pittsburgh.
The Tar Heels wasted no time getting ahead in game one, using a grand slam home run from freshman outfielder Kendra Lynch as part of a seven-run first inning.
That proved to be more than enough offense for the Tar Heels, as senior pitcher Lori Spingola dominated in the circle. Spingola pitched five shutout innings to record her seventh win of the season, allowing only three hits while striking out four.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Spingola reached a new milestone in game one, tossing the 1,000th strikeout of her illustrious UNC career.
“Its pretty to cool to see that big number,” Spingola said. “It’s just a product of how many games I’ve thrown and all the hard work I’ve put into it.”
The Panthers found life in game two, playing tug-of-war for the lead with the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh found itself with a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh inning, loading the bases with two outs in a 7-7 tie.
A soft pop up between home plate and the pitching circle looked like it was going to be the unjust ending to an intense back-and-forth game, but junior catcher Amber Parrish wasn’t ready to shake hands.
“I saw that Lori wasn’t close enough to get it, so I just went all out for it,” Parrish said. “We tried to avoid hitting each other, so I kind of did a flip and just told myself don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball.”
The momentum proved to carry over into the Tar Heels’ half of the eighth inning. Sophomore first baseman Jenna Kelly, who got the scoring started for UNC with a three-run home run in the first inning, stepped into the batter’s box with two outs, runners on first and second base and a chance to give the Tar Heels the lead.
“I was just thinking I needed to get it through the outfield,” Kelly said. “I was a little late on it, but hit it hard and it got to the screen, so I knew we were going to score as soon as I hit it.”
Kelly’s RBI single to right field put UNC ahead for good, as Spingola denied the Panthers in the home half of the eighth to record her second win of the day and become the all-time wins leader in North Carolina softball history with 98.
The Tar Heels improved to 13-11 overall and 7-1 in ACC play with Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Panthers. The win extends UNC’s ACC winning steak to six games and puts the Tar Heels in first place in the ACC for the first time all year.
“It’s all about having confidence,” Papa said. “We want to win the ACC tournament, and I love winning the regular season. What we’ve done so far has put us in first place, but we certainly have a lot more series to go.”
Due to a new rule implemented this season, Sunday’s series finale was canceled due to subfreezing temperatures. No make-up date has been scheduled.
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