UNC softball's Aquilla Mateen shines in 2-1 win over Butler
Through the first four and a half innings of Friday's game against Butler, the North Carolina softball team remained in a scoreless tie.
The Tar Heels repeatedly struggled to finish what they started, leaving four runners in scoring position. Twice that runner was Aquilla Mateen.
The senior outfielder was the bright spot on UNC's underperforming offense, tallying singles in her first two at-bats. But after recording her third single of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, she was determined to score.
After the Tar Heels took a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Kristen Brown, Mateen stood on third base, representing a crucial insurance run.
And as Lauren Fuller squared around to execute a sacrifice squeeze, the senior speedster darted toward the plate and ultimately scored the deciding run in UNC's 2-1 win over the Bulldogs.
“We don’t always win with a blowout, so we’ll take it,” Mateen said. “You only need one to win.”
Mateen finished the contest 3-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored. It was her third multi-hit game in North Carolina's first 11 contests of the season.
Coach Donna Papa spoke highly of Mateen’s performance after the game, pointing to the senior's hard work in practice as a reason for her success.
“I’m really proud of her, because she was in that scenario where almost once in every game she was popping up and just not doing the things that she is capable of doing,” Papa said. “She put it all together in this game and did a lot of good things for us.”
Following a leadoff double by sophomore Taylor Wike, Mateen started her offensive display with a bunt single in the bottom of the first inning. But both runners were stranded on second and third base to thwart the scoring chance.
In the bottom of the third inning, Mateen notched a leadoff single and stole second base. But once again, she failed to score.
Much of UNC's offensive struggles were related to the team's inability to stay selective at the plate and swing at early strikes against Butler pitcher Kristin Gutierrez.
“We got in a hole,” Papa said. “We let good pitches go by for strikes and then we swung at her rise ball. She mixed her pitches well, but we also helped her a lot by not being disciplined at the plate."
The Tar Heels (5-6) finally broke through in the fifth inning, though.
Wike sparked the rally with a one-out walk, which was followed by a Mateen's single. Brown then drove in Wike before Mateen scored on Fuller's sacrifice bunt, giving UNC a 2-0 lead.
And after the Bulldogs scored their lone run in the top of the seventh inning to cut UNC's lead to one, Mateen's run proved to be the difference. It proved to be worth the wait.
“It's my last season, so I’m feeling really confident,” Mateen said. “Even if I don’t do what I’m trying to do at the plate, I know I will get another turn right around the corner. I’m just staying confident and believing that my teammates can do it as well.”
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