But that would all change. A walk to senior Kendra Lynch in the bottom of the fourth followed by a Leah Murray bunt for the first Tar Heel hit brought up first-year star Brittany Pickett — who promptly unloaded for a three-run home run to breathe some life into the Tar Heels.
“I thought that was a really great moment during the game ...” Pickett said. “Coming back to only being down one. We just cheered and kept battling back.”
But that small deficit would not stand for long. The Eagles pushed across runs in each of the last three innings, causing the Tar Heels to turn to Lynch and Pickett for mound duties on days when they were both scheduled to rest.
“I think we can learn a lot from these games,” Lynch said. “I think we had a really slow start but we didn’t quit at the end ... unfortunately we didn’t come out on top of this one.”
Having the duo step into the circle in a game where they were not scheduled to pitch could pay big dividends if the situations presents itself again in the postseason.
Lynch and Pickett held the Eagles to three runs, setting the Tar Heels up for a thrilling final inning. The lead-off hitter was up, and the Tar Heels were down four runs.
Taylor Wike and Katelyn Shifflett both got on base in front of Lynch, giving the senior a chance to perform in a big spot.
“Kendra Lynch showed what a great competitor she is,” Papa said. “She’s done it time and again in the seventh inning.
The decorated senior drilled a three-run home run out to right field to again put the Tar Heels within one of Winthrop.
“We needed to score some runs, so to use that to keep the rally going is ultimately the goal.” Lynch said. “(Home runs) help to keep the energy up.”
The energy could be felt after Lynch’s home run, but the Tar Heels could not muster the tying run.
“Our team fights back,” Papa said. “And we had a chance at the end.”