Playing 12 games in 13 days is a difficult proposition for any collegiate softball team. When six of those matchups come against top-25 opponents, these early season challenges can turn into a gauntlet.
Wednesday night was no exception for North Carolina.
Just a few days after hosting Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the North Carolina softball team faced No. 21 James Madison and fell, 6-3.
The Tar Heels turned to first-year pitcher Alyssa Stanley to shut down a JMU offense that boasted three players hovering around the .600 mark heading into Wednesday.
The Dukes’ bats were as potent as advertised, hitting three straight singles to open the game and causing the Tar Heels to fall behind, 2-0, after the top of the first. Once Stanley worked her way out of trouble during the next two innings, JMU added two more runs in the top of the fourth to build a 4-0 lead.
After recording 17 hits in the four-game ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the North Carolina offense was stymied early on in this contest. Through four innings, the team had yet to record a hit, and it appeared as though JMU would cruise to an easy victory.
However, junior Megan Dray broke the spell in the bottom of the fifth with a line-drive single. Dray's pinch runner was batted in when Stanley ripped a single to right-center field.
“Meg passed me that bat and I just wanted to do something with it,” Stanley said. “She got on base, so I needed to do something for her.”
With no outs and promise on the horizon, though, the Tar Heels were caught stealing twice, virtually ending any kind of momentum that was beginning to develop.