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George and Pickett help UNC softball pick up two ranked wins in wet weekend

Hannah George Northwestern
Hannah George (42) pitches against Northwestern on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Anderson Stadium.

A recurring scene of overcast skies and raindrops falling intermittently arose Sunday afternoon as the North Carolina softball team began its final game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Tar Heels (5-3) finished 3-1 after battling several schedule changes due to rain. 

After a shifted schedule to force a doubleheader Friday and a four-hour game delay Saturday, UNC closed the challenge beating No. 17 Michigan for just the third time in program history. The unpleasant weather might have affected the schedule for the weekend but it did not seem to disrupt the team energy. Up until the last inning of game four for the Tar Heels, the crowd could still hear the chants bursting from the home side dugout. 

“It was cold, but we pushed through it,” first-year Hannah George said. “It got us fired up that we got a chance to play no matter what the weather was like.”

George was a key component to UNC’s victories this weekend, both on the mound and in the batter’s box. Over four games, she had four runs batted in and helped keep the pitching game steady.

“In this weather keeping focus is important, one pitch at a time,” George said. “Don’t let the rain get to you, and tell yourself that no matter what you can pitch strikes.” 

Head coach Donna Papa said performances on the pitcher’s mound stood out this weekend. The Tar Heels got the leadoff batter out more times than not, preventing their opponent from gaining momentum. Alongside George, junior Brittany Pickett — who advanced to 4-0 — was a powerful force for the Tar Heels. 

“She dominated some really good hitting teams in Michigan and Northwestern,” Papa said. “She was a presence on the mound for us and closed the door.” 

Pickett pitched all seven innings against Michigan in the first game and finished out the last four innings in the second matchup. She credits a lot of UNC's success in the poor weather conditions to its training in preseason. It helped that the Tar Heels were on their home field and knew what worked on the field and what didn’t, Pickett said. 

“Even though we’re young, we are still able to get the job done and be successful,” Pickett said. 

Before each pitch, Pickett and George took a breath after drying their hands off with the towel thrown from the dugout, glanced at their wrists to double check the pitch call and then delivered. The simple routine not only grounds them in confidence, but also slows the pace of the game. 

“Slowing the game down a lot in the weather is a huge thing,” Pickett said. 

Of the team's first five wins of the season, three have been against ranked teams. The past two came against Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins, the winningest coach in the history of NCAA softball. After playing and winning in 87-degree weather last weekend, then cold rain this weekend, UNC has proven it can compete in various conditions. 

@brewsybeast

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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