Trailing 8-4 and down to their final two outs, Lynch blasted a pitch from Winthrop sophomore Kiley Majette over the right field fence. Suddenly, Anderson Stadium was going crazy and the Tar Heels had all the momentum in the world.
But Majette was able to stay mentally focused and retired the next two UNC batters to end the game.
Although it fell short, the rally was UNC’s second of the day.
Down by four runs without a hit in the fourth inning, UNC looked dead in the water, but a heads up play first-year pinch-runner Brittany West changed the course of the game.
On first base after Lynch walked, West stole second as Winthrop sophomore pitcher Keleigh Romine slowly walked back to the mound with her head down.
That allowed for sophomore left fielder Leah Murray to bunt for a single, as UNC recorded its first hit of the day. One at-bat later, freshman first baseman Brittany Pickett hit a three-run home run to right field, cutting Winthrop’s lead to one.
Unfazed, Winthrop responded with a solo homer by redshirt junior third baseman Leah Young off UNC freshman relief pitcher Hannah Nommensen in the top of the fifth.
Nommensen was one of four pitchers used out of the bullpen by the Tar Heels on what was an unusual day.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Sydney Matzko started, but was pulled with one out in the first inning after she issued three walks and gave up a run, leaving the bases loaded for her replacement, first-year Kellyn Daly.
Daly managed to get out of the inning without any more damage being done, but gave up three runs in the third.
On the day, UNC pitchers walked eight batters, two more than they did all weekend against Boston College.
In the bottom of the fifth, an RBI-single by Lynch trimmed the Tar Heels’ deficit to one.
But Winthrop was able to hit well against Lynch, who pitched two innings in relief, as the Eagles managed to score three runs in the final two innings before UNC made its final comeback attempt.
Who stood out?
Lynch has been the slugger UNC expected her to be this season and her performance against the Eagles served as a reminder of how dangerous she is at the plate. After going 2-for-3 with a walk and four RBIs, she’s hitting .403 with 18 home runs.
Pickett, who threw a complete game shutout in UNC’s midweek win against USC Upstate on April 12, also continued to show how well she can hit. After her three-run shot, she now has 10 home runs, second only to Lynch.
While she appeared only as a pinch-runner, West’s altered the game with her stolen base in the fourth inning.
When was it decided?
Thanks to Lynch, the game wasn’t truly determined until the final out.
But Winthrop’s ability to pick up three insurance runs late in the game proved crucial. Had the Eagles been content with the lead they had, perhaps Lynch’s home run would’ve been a walk-off.
Why does it matter?
At this point, UNC appears to be in no danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels, second in the ACC, have already matched their conference win total from last season (13) and are still 23 games above .500.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels begin their penultimate ACC series of the regular season Friday at Syracuse. UNC went 2-1 against the Orange last year.