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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina softball goes 2-2 in ACC/Big Ten challenge over the weekend

Brittany Pickett JMU
Brittany Pickett pitches against James Madison on April 26, 2017, in Anderson Stadium.

In an up-and-down early season showing, the North Carolina softball team (5-4) split two-game series with both Illinois (3-6) and Wisconsin (4-4) as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. 

Friday, Feb. 16 vs. Illinois

The Tar Heels started strong on Friday, beating Illinois 6-2 to kick off the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Sophomore pitcher Brittany Pickett starred in the weekend opener, going 3-4 at the plate with a win on the mound to boot. Pickett opened up the game’s scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. Illinois quickly answered in the top of the second with a sacrifice fly. 

After UNC scored a run on a fielder’s choice in the third to make it 2-1, Illinois countered in the fifth, scoring a run on a bases loaded walk. The Tar Heels responded in the bottom of the fifth, however, with a four-run inning that would ultimately prove decisive. 

Shortstop Taylor Wike’s solo home run would key the Tar Heel run, followed by a two-run single from catcher Megan Dray and capped off by another run batted in by pinch-hitter Katie Bailiff on a single. From there, the Tar Heels were able to hold strong defensively and start the weekend on a positive note by earning the victory.

Saturday, Feb. 17 vs. Wisconsin

The Tar Heels’ Saturday doubleheader began with a chilly noon game against Wisconsin, a high-scoring affair that would end in a 9-7 victory for North Carolina. 

After two uneventful frames, the teams combined for seven runs in the third inning, starting with a two-run single from junior Berlynne Delamora. Dray followed up with a two-run homer to left center, pushing the UNC lead to four. Wisconsin would waste no time in responding, however, with a sacrifice fly and a two-run double resulting in three runs. 

The Tar Heels would muster another five runs in the fourth and fifth innings combined with the help of RBI double from Pickett and a run-scoring single from center fielder Kiani Ramsey. Second baseman Sierra Parkinson followed with a two-run single and Wike produced the last run on a sacrifice fly.

A solo home run from Wisconsin’s Melanie Cross in the fifth inning would set up a 9-4 score heading into the bottom of the seventh. Then, a two-out, three-run bomb from Cross - her second of the day - left a sliver of hope for a Badger comeback, but the Tar Heels were able to seal the win, 9-7.

Saturday, Feb. 17 vs. Illinois

In the second game of the day, a rematch against Illinois, the Tar Heels would take their first loss of the weekend, 5-2. After a combined fifteen runs over the previous two games, the offense came up short in this one, with North Carolina mostly unable to capitalize on nine hits.

The Tar Heels struck first in the opening frame with a solo home run from Wike, her second of the weekend. The Fighting Illini returned the favor in the bottom of the first with an RBI double from designated hitter Rowan McGuire, then tacked on two more runs in the second inning thanks to a bases-loaded walk followed by an RBI groundout from McGuire. 

In the fifth inning, an RBI single from Parkinson would end up being North Carolina’s last run of the day. Two more runs from Illinois in the bottom of the inning put the game to bed.

Sunday, Feb. 18 vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin, looking to avenge its Saturday loss, was the aggressor out of the gate in the final game of the weekend. The Tar Heels were held scoreless for the first time this season and lost, 6-0. 

The Badgers were bolstered by a three-run second inning to put them ahead. With North Carolina unable to respond, Wisconsin followed up with two runs in the fifth and one run in the sixth off a solo home run from shortstop Brooke Wyderski.

Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz was the star, throwing her first shutout of the season and holding the Tar Heels to just five hits in Sunday’s game. More consistent offense will be a point of emphasis for North Carolina moving forward.

The team will hope to quickly regroup and bounce back on Tuesday, when it travels to Columbia to face off against South Carolina at 6 p.m.

@rwilcox_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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