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UNC softball falls to Florida State in ACC Tournament semifinal

Senior Aquilla Mateen runs to first base in the ACC Softball Tournament held in Raleigh on Thursday
Senior Aquilla Mateen runs to first base in the ACC Softball Tournament held in Raleigh on Thursday

The North Carolina softball team lost to Florida State, 7-1, Friday afternoon at Dail Stadium in Raleigh in the second round of the ACC Softball Championship. The loss ended the Tar Heels' hopes of winning an ACC title and getting an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

What Happened?

North Carolina (31-22) had the momentum early. The Tar Heels loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second inning and looked to be in prime position to translate that early momentum into runs. But Florida State pitcher Jessica Burroughs struck out three straight batters to end the inning, leaving three runners stranded. North Carolina left nine total runners on base on the afternoon.

“That’s us just not taking advantage of some of our opportunities,” junior pitcher Kendra Lynch said. “We definitely jumped ahead of them early, we had a chance to get ahead, make them kind of back on their feet, and we didn’t do what we needed to do to take advantage of those opportunities. So that was on us.”

North Carolina’s inability to translate hits into runs early on in the game was disappointing to Coach Donna Papa.

“Florida State beat us but we had so many opportunities early in the game, especially the first few innings, but we left people on base and struck out,” she said. “We’ve been hitting the ball well and we didn’t execute in the situations that we needed to.”

Florida State (47-8) took advantage of North Carolina’s mishaps on offense and defense to put up seven runs. The Seminoles moved to the ACC Tournament finals and will play Saturday at 2:00 p.m. for the championship.

Who Stood Out?

Taylor Wike had a great game at the plate for the Tar Heels. She went 3-4 and scored the team's only run in the fifth inning. Other than Wike, however, the UNC struggled. The rest of the lineup only managed three hits and the team combined for 10 strikeouts.

When was it decided?

Reliever Meghan King’s entrance into the game in the fourth inning after the Seminoles scored four runs in the top of the third frame was the beginning of the end for the Tar Heels. King was dominant, throwing four innings while giving up just three hits and striking out seven.

“[King] hit her spots,” Lynch said. “She got us swinging at a lot of good pitches, mixed up and down really well. She was just throwing hard and she just hit her spots.”

Florida State’s second arm foiled North Carolina after they had some success against FSU's first pitcher, Burroughs. The Seminoles’ ability to throw two good pitchers back-to-back is one of their greatest strengths.

“The thing that Florida State has pitching wise is they can give you different looks,” Papa said. “The first pitcher keeps the ball lower, Burroughs, and King brings it up, so now you have to change zones and change planes, so you have to do a good job of really laying off that [high] pitch.”

Why it matters?

This game was important not only for the ACC Tournament but in the context of the NCAA Tournament later this month. North Carolina now has to hope the selection committee sees how well they have played in the last month and gives the Tar Heels an at-large bid. Papa is staying hopeful.

“I feel like we’ve built a good resume,” Papa said. “I feel like we are in a good position. A few things have to happen – we have to hope that every team that is supposed to win, the No. 1 seeds, wins ... I’m certainly pulling for the No. 1 seeds to win their tournaments, but I do think we are in a good position. But you never know.”

Lynch was also confident that this team will have one more chance to take the field this summer.

“We’ve had a really good month, looking back, and our season is not over,” Lynch said. “We are confident in that. So going forward, we are just going to play our best and do what we’ve been doing all month, all year really.” 

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will find out their fate Sunday night, when the selection committee picks the field for the NCAA Tournament. 

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@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com