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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC softball falls in NCAA regional final to Tennessee after hard-fought weekend

Brittany Pickett UNC v FSU
UNC junior pitcher Brittany Pickett (28) winds up for a pitch during a double header against the FSU Seminoles at G. Anderson Softball Stadium on Monday, April 15, 2019. The Tar Heels beat the Seminoles in both games.

The North Carolina women’s softball team (38-20, 17-7 ACC) competed in the NCAA Knoxville Regional over the weekend, where they played five games before eventually falling to No. 10 Tennessee (42-15) 2-0 to end the season.

What happened?

North Carolina started the tournament Friday against Ohio State and dropped the game 1-0 in a pitcher’s duel between junior Brittany Pickett and Morgan Ray. The game remained scoreless until the top of the sixth, when a leadoff double followed by a throwing error put runners on second and third with no outs. Ohio State’s sacrifice bunt gave them a 1-0 lead and proved to be enough to win.

In an elimination game on Saturday, the Tar Heels grabbed a quick 1-0 lead against Longwood when senior Kiani Ramsey singled in the top of the first. Longwood tied the game 1-1 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first. A subsequent home run by sophomore Kristina Burkhardt gave UNC a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. The Tar Heels made it 3-1 in the top of the sixth, and first- year pitcher Hannah George shut down the Lancers for the next two innings to seal the victory for North Carolina.

With the win against Longwood, North Carolina played again Saturday against the Buckeyes. The game remained deadlocked until the top of the third, when UNC exploded for a five-run rally. With three straight walks, the Tar Heels had the bases loaded and no outs when senior Leah Murray reached on a fielder’s choice to give UNC a 1-0 lead. Burkhardt's single batted home two additional runs to expand the lead to 3-0. Ramsey also singled home another two runs to balloon the lead to 5-0 for North Carolina. 

Ohio State scored two runs in the bottom of the third to make it 5-2, and added another run in the fifth to narrow the lead to two, but it was not enough. The Tar Heels claimed victory, 5-3, and kept their season alive. 

The Tar Heels played another double header on Sunday, both against Tennessee, needing both games to advance to the super regional. In game one Pickett had a masterful performance, with eight strikeouts and two hits in a complete game shutout. In the bottom of the sixth Burkhardt hit a solo home run to give the Tar Heels the lead 1-0. This lone run, along with Pickett’s dominance in the circle, allowed North Carolina to win the first game.

Game two featured more dominant pitching from both teams. The score remained 0-0 until the bottom of the fifth. With runners on first and second, Tennessee hit a double to give themselves a 2-0 advantage. The Tar Heels were unable to answer, and fell to the Volunteers 2-0 to end their season.

Who stood out?

Pickett struck out eight or more batters in her last eight of nine complete games, and her complete-game shutout in game one is the eighth thrown by a Tar Heel in an NCAA tournament game. Burkhardt also hit two home runs over the weekend, both at crucial times for North Carolina to help keep their season alive.

When was it decided? 

Three of the five games North Carolina played this weekend were decided in the fifth inning or later. Against Longwood, North Carolina lead in the third and expanded their lead in the sixth. In the deciding game against the Volunteers, a two-run fifth inning from Tennessee proved to be the separator in a low-scoring battle.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels played in four straight elimination games for the first time in program history, ultimately falling short in the last one against Tennessee despite an impressive run with their backs against the wall. North Carolina had nine ranked wins this season— three more than any previous team. The team's 124 stolen bases also set a new single-season record. 

Where do they play next?

North Carolina's season ended with the loss to Tennessee on Sunday. Next year the Tar Heels will return star pitcher Brittany Pickett, among others, and will look to build on a season where they finished 38-20 and reached the ACC Championship Game.


@DTHSports |

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