“We are never, ever out of a game,” head coach Donna Papa said after the loss. “You have to go to the last pitch and the last out for us and that’s what we’ve shown all season.”
UNC struggled offensively against Burroughs — the ACC Pitcher of the Year who finished with eight strikeouts — for much of the day.
Unlike Burroughs, who had pitched just three innings during the first two days of the tournament, Pickett did not have the benefit of rest.
Instead, she made her third start in the circle in as many days and battled arm soreness to turn in a solid performance.
Undeterred by a FSU order that includes eight batters with .300-plus batting averages, Pickett kept UNC in the game, holding the Seminoles scoreless through the first three innings before allowing a pair of runs in the fourth.
FSU third baseman Jessica Warren opened the scoring with her 21st home run of the season. Pickett nearly escaped after that, but a two-out walk led to the Seminoles doubling their advantage on a triple by left fielder Dani Morgan.
Two innings later, the Seminoles tacked on two more on a two-run homer by first baseman Alex Powers.
Even though the odds were stacked against them, the Tar Heels still found a way to make things interesting, despite their comeback bid falling short.
“I think this year we really have a fighting team and I knew we were never going to give up,” Shifflett said. “So I knew whichever way we were going to do it, we were going to get on base.”
UNC trailed by only two runs entering the bottom of the sixth, but a costly fielding error hurt the Tar Heels.
Warren led off the inning for the Seminoles and hit a routine pop fly to right-center and UNC right fielder Brittany West seemed ready to make the catch. Center fielder Destiny DeBerry decided the ball was hers to grab, however, and ended up dropping it.
One batter later, Powers doubled FSU’s lead with her home run.
Papa said both players called for the ball, and although it was West’s to catch, the right fielder should’ve done more to wave DeBerry off.
While Pickett said it threw her off when the ball was dropped, she still blamed herself for giving up the subsequent home run.
“We all make mistakes," she said, "and the ball eventually came back to me and I missed that."
Three to know
Jessica Burroughs, FSU: Burroughs showed why she was named the conference’s best pitcher. Despite her poor showing in the seventh, she was dominant against the Tar Heels, facing just one more than the minimum through the first six innings.
Brittany Pickett, UNC: Papa said Pickett was being a bit too critical of herself after the game, as she remained upset that she made the final out.
In reality, the Tar Heels wouldn’t have even been in that position if not for the job she did against FSU’s batters.
Dani Morgan, FSU: Named the most valuable player of the tournament, Morgan sent in a run with a triple in the fourth and finished her week in Chapel Hill 6-8 with two home runs and five RBIs.
By the numbers
2: Number of consecutive games with a home run for Shifflett.
6: Number of different Seminoles with a hit against UNC.
17: Number of consecutive innings of scoreless baseball pitched by FSU throughout the tournament until Shifflett’s homer.
27: Number of wins by FSU against ACC teams this year.
They said it
“Sometimes you can be really depressed after a loss or really down. And I’m disappointed, but not like, ‘Oh my God, this is the end of the world.’ Because I think the girls gained so much from this and this should propel them into regionals.” — Papa.
The Tar Heels will find out Sunday night which regional in the NCAA Tournament they will be in and who their potential opponents are.
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, UNC, which entered the ACC Tournament No. 34 in the RPI rankings, has most likely done enough to secure its spot in the field of 64.
The NCAA Tournament begins Friday.