The North Carolina softball team (3-3) split its doubleheader on Friday, beating No. 17 Michigan 8-3 but falling to Northwestern, 9-3.
UNC played back-to-back games as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, taking down Michigan thanks to a grand slam that put the Tar Heels over the edge in what started as a low scoring tangle. As night set in at Anderson Stadium and the lights came up for the second game, the Tar Heels were overwhelmed from start to finish by Northwestern’s sluggers.
Game 1: UNC 8, Michigan 3
The Tar Heels and the Wolverines stayed neck-and-neck through the first two innings, as both teams were unable to score in the first inning. But each loaded the bases and brought one runner home in the second.
The game remained a defensive struggle at 1-1 until the bottom of the fourth inning when first-year Abby Settlemyre drilled the ball over the right field wall. This two-run homer drove in senior Berlynne Delamora as well, who had reached base on a walk, and gave UNC a 3-1 lead going into the top of the fifth inning.
The Wolverines answered with a two-run blast of their own in the top of the fifth inning, tying the game at 3-3. But UNC did not back down, with senior Kiani Ramsey hitting a line drive double just inside the foul line. Shortly after, redshirt sophomore Kristina Burkhardt grounded out, allowing senior Leah Murray to score on the play, and giving the Tar Heels the lead at 4-3.
But UNC did not stop there. First-year Kiersten Licea broke the game open with a grand slam to centerfield, putting the Tar Heels up 8-3. Neither team scored again after this smash hit from Licea.
Game 2: Northwestern 9, UNC 3
The Wildcats started off strong and jumped on UNC with three runs in the first two innings. From there, they never looked back. Northwestern’s strong fielding left the Tar Heels unable to put themselves on the scoreboard through much of the game.
In the top of the third inning, the Wildcats continued their hot hitting with another two-run shot, extending the lead to 5-0. Junior Hannah Nommensen then took over as pitcher.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Tar Heels chipped away at Northwestern’s lead and put themselves on the map, scoring two runs highlighted by hits from first-year Lexi Godwin and senior Destiny DeBerry, making the score of the game 5-2 Northwestern.
However, the Wildcats were not finished, as they added on four more runs in the seventh and final inning, dousing any hopes of a Tar Heel comeback. The final score of the game was 9-3 Northwestern.
Who stood out?
The first game against Michigan featured two first career home runs from first-year Tar Heels Licea and Settlemyre. Settlemyre’s two-run bomb gave UNC its lead that it would hold tightly onto for the rest of the game. Just an inning later, Licea went deep with a grand slam, which turned the tide of the game for good.
UNC’s pitching also stood out in the games. Junior pitcher Brittany Pickett delivered a complete game against Michigan, giving up only three runs and helping UNC get out of the field efficiently each inning.
When was it decided?
The story of the first game against Michigan never flipped after Licea’s grand slam at the bottom of the fifth to put North Carolina comfortably ahead.
Almost the opposite happened in UNC’s challenge against Northwestern; the Wildcats established a lead in the first inning and never wavered from their path to victory.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels took down the ranked Wolverines in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and Michigan’s team was fresh off a win against Louisville. After a slow beginning, UNC did not back down and never lost their momentum throughout the remainder of the game.
However, the Tar Heels were unable to keep their momentum and split the doubleheader. They gave up their chance at a winning record, until tomorrow when they hope to get redemption against the Wildcats.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will return to Anderson Stadium on Feb. 16 to play Northwestern for the second time at 3 p.m. On Sunday, Feb. 17, at 12:30 p.m., UNC will battle Michigan for the final time in ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
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