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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC softball's season comes to an end with pair of NCAA Regional losses

The North Carolina softball team competed in the Harrisonburg Regional of the NCAA Tournament this weekend in Harrisonburg, Va. The Tar Heels won a dramatic first game over Longwood, but lost their next two games and failed to advance in the tournament.

What happened?

Pitcher Kendra Lynch did just enough in the Tar Heels’ first game of the weekend against Longwood to give her offense a chance. Lynch pitched seven innings and allowed four runs, although none were earned. North Carolina was down 4-0 after the third inning, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie it up. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Kristen Brown sent a rocket over the wall for a two-run home run, giving the Tar Heels a win in their first game of the weekend.

In the second game, James Madison just had more offensive firepower than the Tar Heels. James Madison’s Jessica Mrozek hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning that set the tone for the game. The Dukes would finish the day with 11 hits to the Tar Heels’ five.

In North Carolina's third and final game of the weekend, Tracy Chandless hit a home run in the top of the fourth to give the Heels a 3-0 lead. But Longwood, mindful of Friday night's result, engineered a comeback of their own to tie the game at four and send it into extras. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Longwood's Karleigh Donovan hit a single to drive in the winning run, ending the Tar Heels’ season.

Who stood out?

Kristen Brown stood out as she always does for the Tar Heel offense. On Friday evening against Longwood, Brown hit a two-run home run to win it for North Carolina. The walk-off home run was the 66th of her career, breaking the all-time ACC career home run record.

This weekend marked the final time Brown will wear a UNC jersey. She leaves the Tar Heels having tallied 66 home runs, 469 total bases and 204 RBIs.

After the Tar Heels lost to Florida State in the ACC Tournament, Brown embraced her coach, Donna Papa, for a long time after the team’s postgame meeting. Brown’s softball career is far from over, as she was drafted by the Chicago Bandits, but you could tell then that she didn’t want her UNC career to end, either. This weekend represented the end of an outstanding career.

On Friday, after she hit the walk-off home run, Brown’s teammates greeted her at home plate with a handmade neon sign with the number 66 on it. She reflected on the moment of holding the ACC record Friday after the Longwood win.

“Oh my god, it’s such a cool feeling,” she said. “There’s so many great players in the ACC, being able to follow it up and now have the record to myself, my whole team had the sign, it was such a good feeling to round the bases and see them and their support.”

No matter what happened the rest of the weekend, the Tar Heels will always have that moment, that walk-off, that record-breaking home run, as a capstone of Brown’s career to look back on.

When was it decided?

NCAA Regionals are double elimination, so the Tar Heel's fate was sealed with a 5-4 loss in nine innings to Longwood. The Lancers advance to their first-ever NCAA Regional Final against James Madison.

Why does it matter?

This is the end of the road for six Tar Heel seniors — Kristen Brown, Tracy Chandless, Lauren Fuller, Aquilla Mateen, Erin Satterfield and Elly Wagner. They finished their senior season with a record of 32-25.

“We just told the team that the future is bright,” Papa said. “We’re really excited about it with the pitching we have coming in and the nine freshmen coming in next year. While we’re going to lose a great player like (Brown) and the leadership of all our seniors, you can’t replace the experience that all our young players were able to get this year. 

"We want them to keep that inside, make this our standard and we continue to strive to get through it.”

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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