The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday July 7th

Preview: UNC softball gears up for weekend series against No. 18 Clemson

<p>Shortstop Alex Brown (5) looks to throw the ball to first base in a home game against Appalachian State on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. UNC won 8-4.</p>
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Shortstop Alex Brown (5) looks to throw the ball to first base in a home game against Appalachian State on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. UNC won 8-4.

After a two-game win streak, UNC softball will remain in Chapel Hill for a three-game series against No. 18 Clemson. 

In order to ensure success in these home ACC matchups, the Tar Heels must focus on the Tigers’ pitching tactics, have consistent base hits and assist one another in the fielding process.

Knowing pitching tactics

Clemson has a few players who have been particularly successful in the circle this year. Notably, sophomore Regan Spencer has recorded a 0.77 ERA in the 12 games she has pitched in so far this season. Also a sophomore, Valerie Cagle has a 2.25 ERA this season, was named ACC Player of the Year in 2021 and pitched for Team USA’s U-18 Junior Women’s National Team. Moreover, UNC should look out for fellow sophomore Mille Thompson, a left-handed pitcher who has a 1.57 ERA in 14 game appearances. Pitching success has been a contributing factor in the Tigers’ overall success so far this season.

In order to have offensive success against Clemson this weekend, North Carolina needs to study the pitching habits of their opposing team's stars. Cagle is a fast pitcher, with speeds up to 75 mph that the Tar Heels need to be ready to face, and, although she has allowed 21 hits this season, Spencer has only allowed one home run. North Carolina will have to rely on their offensive skills within the field to boost their score against Clemson. It is not uncommon for batters to be thrown off by a left-handed pitcher, so UNC softball must also prepare for the possibility of facing Thompson. 

The Tar Heels need to learn the Tigers' pitchers to outsmart them and succeed offensively in this weekend’s series.

Having consistent base hits

When North Carolina loses, it tends to lose badly. The Tar Heels — who have suffered four shutout losses this season — will face a Tigers team that has forced 13 this season. Strong performances at the plate with consistent base hits will be essential for UNC to put points on the board and win against Clemson. 

Sophomore middle infielder Skyler Brooks has one of the Tar Heels’ highest batting averages at .354. She has been particularly successful as of late, batting an average of over .400 in four straight games, and no game below a .347 since early March. Brooks will need to keep her bat hot to aid her team’s offense against Clemson.

Junior outfielder Bri Stubbs, graduate student shortstop Sara Jubas and senior catcher Taylor Greene also all hit above .300. Stubbs has the team’s highest batting average at .364. North Carolina will look to their most successful hitters to have consistent base hits and boost their scores in the series against the Tigers. 

Successful fielding

Clemson has amassed 270 total assists in the 2022 season, as compared to UNC's 206. The Tigers also field better than the Tar Heels with a .969 fielding percentage, while North Carolina trails slightly with a .965 fielding percentage.

UNC has seven players with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Brooks stands out both offensively for the team and with the most assists at 55. Junior third baseman and shortstop Destiny Middleton has the second most assists with 48. To avoid being outscored, North Carolina’s assist leaders will need to work together with their top fielders to successfully field the ball. 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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