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.