Resilience has been the overarching theme of collegiate sports this season. In the face of overwhelming odds this past year while dealing with COVID-19, the North Carolina softball team was no different, battling just to get on the field.
But after the Tar Heels' opening series was canceled due to inclement weather, they have come out hot in the ACC, with their three-game series win against Syracuse being a shining microcosm of that very resilience.
The Tar Heels entered the series coming off a pair of dominant victories against Boston College on Friday. They ran into a tough opponent in the Orange who were coming off a close win against Notre Dame.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the first game, the Tar Heels fought back to tie things up before eventually losing after a Syracuse run at the top of the ninth pushed the Orange ahead, 3-2. Fifth-year senior Kristina Burkhardt wasn’t worried, though, knowing the team was more than capable of bouncing back from the tough loss.
“We tried to take away the good things we did in that game and kind of put it behind us," Burkhardt said. "It was a close fought game, and we did a lot of good things, so we just carried that into the next two games. We just had to make adjustments and keep a positive attitude going.”
The Tar Heels next faced the prospect of having to play a second game of the day against the very team that had just beat them, a daunting task for any team. With little time between games, UNC would have to look beyond the results of the first match and focus on tying the series up.
“I think we’re pretty good about just flushing it and moving on to the next play, the next game, the next pitcher, whoever we’re facing,” fifth-year senior Brittany Pickett said. “It’s kind of just our pregame adjustments. We keep that very consistent, and I think that helps roll into the game regardless of who we’re facing.”
The Tar Heels would demonstrate their resilience again to bounce back in the second game. They opened up the scoring with a run in the third inning, winning in commanding fashion with a final score of 4-0 after seven innings.
North Carolina's pitching proved to be fantastic, giving up only five hits during the game and Pickett registering 12 strikeouts and only one walk. This bounce-back win by the Tar Heels meant that the series would be decided in the third game on Sunday morning.
The Tar Heels, much like in game one, fell behind by two runs early in the game. Still, UNC showed its fight with an extraordinary performance in the bottom of the fourth with junior Kiersten Licea’s double knocking in two runs. Later in the inning, she scored on a sacrifice fly from junior Lexi Godwin.
After the Tar Heels took the 3-2 lead, they never looked back, ending the day with a 4-2 victory. Following the series win, the Tar Heels are tied for first in the ACC with a 4-1 record. Head coach Donna Papa was happy with the way the team was able to bounce back.
“I’m really excited about how we were down in this game, came back, yesterday we took a lead and never looked back,” Papa said. “I’m really proud of what we did this weekend because the goal was to win the series, which, if you’ve won two out of three, you’ve won it, and that’s what we did. We call today championship Sunday.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.