It seems that the preseason ranking of the North Carolina softball team, especially in the conference, left a bitter taste in head coach Donna Papa’s mouth. But since then, the Tar Heels’ strong start hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I was not really thrilled about being ranked fourth in the ACC,” Papa said. “I have a little chip on my shoulder about that one, but I’m excited people are starting to notice."
After a successful 3-2 run at an early-season tournament in Tallahassee, Florida last weekend, the Tar Heels were able to garner enough votes to crack the top 25 in the national rankings. UNC defeated then-No. 2 Alabama and took then-No. 9 Florida State to extra innings, giving the team confidence heading into their home opener.
And despite a slow start, the No. 25 North Carolina softball team was able to win soundly against unranked Campbell in an 11-1 mercy-rule victory on Wednesday. The win over the Camels was a statement victory for a team that Papa says she feels is under-appreciated.
"Now that we’re ranked in the top 25," she said, "We become a target.”
After a scoreless first inning and one run scored by Campbell in the top of the second, UNC found itself down 1-0.
A four-run scoring burst in the bottom of the second by the Tar Heels proved to be the turning point in the game. North Carolina was able to capitalize on a series of walks strung together by the Campbell pitcher that loaded the bases.
Another walk, a sacrifice fly to right field by sophomore first baseman Kiersten Licea, and a shot to shallow center by first-year Destiny Middleton gave the Tar Heels a 4-1 lead and control of the game heading into the third.
“We just needed to get something started, put something in play,” redshirt junior Kristina Burkhardt said. “We always say we need to just pass the bat. Once one person gets it going we can follow.”