After opening the weekend with an 0-3 record in the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina softball team (7-13) came alive offensively in its fourth game with eight hits to oust Harvard, 6-1.
Redshirt first-year Kristina Burkhardt led UNC’s offense, going 4-for-4 at the plate.
In the top of the first inning with runners on first and second base, Burkhardt hit a line drive up the middle for an RBI single to give the Tar Heels the early 1-0 lead. With runners now on first and second base once again, junior Kiani Ramsey hit a hard ground ball at Harvard’s second baseman, who bobbled it for an error and caused the bases to be loaded.
Harvard’s pitcher then walked sophomore Campbell Hutcherson, while sophomore Hailey Jensen scored UNC’s final run of the first inning to push the lead to 2-0.
“Today, we were able to score first and that’s so important,” head coach Donna J. Papa said. “It’s so important to attack and score first because then you give your pitcher some breathing room.”
After failing to score in the second inning, Burkhardt led UNC off at the plate in the top of the third. Burkhardt smacked the ball over the wall in between left and center field for a solo home run to deepen North Carolina’s lead to 3-0.
“Our coaches tell us before games to stick to the process and what we’ve been doing in practice,” Burkhardt said. “I went up to the plate and looked for the pitches that I knew that I was confident enough to swing at before the game.”
UNC was still ahead 3-0 in the top of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and only one out. Sophomore Hailey Cole hit a hard ground ball in-between first and second base and earned two RBIs as two runners scored for the Tar Heels to deepen the lead to 5-0.
In the sixth inning, Jensen hit the second solo home run of the day for North Carolina, but in the opposite direction of Burkhardt’s. Jensen sailed the ball over the left field wall and it slammed into the scoreboard for her first career home run.
After UNC’s defense held Harvard’s offense to a three up, three down bottom of the sixth, the Tar Heels headed into the final inning of play with a comfortable 6-0 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Harvard scored one run off of a double but left runners on second and third base to end the game.
Sophomore Brittany Pickett celebrated both the win and her 20th birthday on the mound. Pickett pitched over 20 innings over the course of two days.
“It takes quite a bit,” Pickett said about her pitching load. “This is when everything that I’ve done in the fall pays off during the spring because I’m prepared.”
With the win on Sunday, UNC has now won two of its last 13 games, so ending the Carolina Classic with a win was vital for the team’s confidence moving forward.
“It’s really about the process that we’ve been going through,” Papa said. “We’ve been trying to get them to continue to believe in themselves. We believe in them, we really do, and I told them that they need to believe in each other and also believe and trust in us.”
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