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UNC softball explodes for four runs in sixth inning to mercy rule Pittsburgh, 9-1

Sophomore infielder Abby Settlemyre (29) tags a runner out at second base during the game against Pittsburgh at G. Anderson Softball Stadium on March 1, 2020. UNC won 1-9.

The North Carolina softball team (8-11, 2-1 ACC) dominated Pittsburgh, 9-1, through six innings to win its opening ACC series of the 2020 season. 

What happened?

Although they lost the first game on Friday, the Tar Heels evened up the series on Saturday and looked to take the final game on Sunday to close out the weekend. 

The Panthers (6-9, 1-2) struck fast and early, scoring first after Kaitlyn Kruger hit a single to help the runner on third make it home. But that would be the only success Pittsburgh had for the duration of the game. 

UNC responded in the bottom of the first as both Megan Dray and Lexi Godwin hit singles, allowing Abby Settlemyre to secure the tying run. From then on, the Tar Heels refused to let up. 

Kiersten Licea was the bright spot of the second after she sent a solo home run over the fence to open the inning. Campbell Hutcherson took inspiration from Licea and opened the bottom of the third with a homer of her own.  

Licea refused to let her momentum slip away for the remainder of the game. After hitting a double, Licea tested Pittsburgh by stealing third base. Sprinting hard, she made it and turned her attention to home, wanting to touch the plate again. With a hit from Destiny Middleton, Licea once again found herself scoring. 

Godwin continued the trend of home runs in the bottom of the fifth, leading into the explosion in the sixth. Runs by Bri Stubbs and Shayla Thompson increased the lead to six. 

The bottom of the sixth can only be described in one word: wild. 

Thompson stole second, Settlemyre bunted before stealing second and Middleton had the gall to steal home. All spectators could see was a blur of blue jerseys heading to home plate. 

The Tar Heels couldn’t stop scoring until a single by Godwin late in the bottom of the sixth allowed Settlemyre to score, and the mercy rule was called.

Who stood out?

It was an offensive eruption at Anderson Stadium as multiple UNC players displayed elite skill at the plate. 

Settlemyre, Godwin and Licea all had multi-hit games: Godwin hit a perfect 4-for-4, while Settlemyre tallied two runs on three hits and Licea also had two hits, including a homer in the second inning.

When was it decided?

Although the Tar Heels were consistently scoring in each inning, it wasn't until an outburst of four runs in the sixth that firmly sealed the win. Four runs in four hits was all it took for the game to be called before the Tar Heels could celebrate their victory. 

Why does it matter?

UNC began its conference play with a hot start, sitting 2-1 in the ACC and improving to 8-11 on the season. 

Though it's early in the season, the team is starting to figure out its identity and style of play. UNC has created a name for itself by stealing bases and never letting up until the very end.  

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to the coast to face in-state foe UNCW at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, as they try to extend their two-game winning streak.

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