Carlson struck out six batters and only allowed two hits in 24 at-bats. She also helped ensure the leadoff batter for Western in each inning never got on base, keeping her team in the game on a day where runs were at a premium.
“When you get the leadoff batter in every inning, that’s a big thing,” Papa said. “Nine times out of 10 they usually score.”
Originally from Garden Grove, Calif., Carlson was a decorated player in high school. She started all four years on her varsity team, and was named a MaxPreps All-American three times. She was all-state and all-county all four years she played, won a championship in 2014 and was the Orange County Pitcher of the Year in 2013.
But college is a different game than high school — and Carlson will be the first to tell you that.
“Every hitter can get you,” Carlson said. “In high school you those three, four, five batters you know are going to give you the struggles, but here it’s anyone in the lineup. You can’t take any pitches off.”
In just three games, Carlson has shown flashes of the talent that UNC saw when it recruited her. She had nine strikeouts in her first game in Arizona against Northwestern, but the team still lost 7-3. Papa and her teammates said they have complete trust in her abilities, they just need to help her out.
“She’s a freshman pitcher, she’s played great every game she played in, but we just didn’t push through on the offensive side,” junior outfielder Aquilla Mateen said.
But while the offensive struggles continued, Carlson stepped up her game. Each time her batters came back without scoring, Carlson went back to the mound and gave them another chance.
“I think she was very poised and very focused and got her job done,” Papa said. “I’m so excited about the career she can have here.”
After opening weekend in Arizona, it would have been fair for Carlson to question how welcoming the big leagues were. But now, with the first win in the books, she’s proven she belongs.
“Arizona was…it was good to get the nerves out,” Carlson said.
“But this is how I expect to play.”