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Thursday August 18th

UNC softball scores 11 runs in second inning to cruise past rival N.C. State

Third baseman Destiny Middleton (47) throws the ball towards first base for an out on Sunday, March 27, 2022. UNC beat N.C. State 16-4.
Buy Photos Third baseman Destiny Middleton (47) throws the ball towards first base for an out on Sunday, March 27, 2022. UNC beat N.C. State 16-4.

It may not be the most illustrious blue blood rivalry, but a little Tobacco Road competition with N.C. State will bring the heat in any sport. 

Following a narrow 12-11 win on Friday, the Tar Heels were stunned by a Wolfpack-record nine home runs in a lopsided 15-8 defeat the following day. One would think the Tar Heels would be irreversibly shaken, but they weren’t even fazed.

“We know we're going to get punched and punched, but we have to punch back harder,” head coach Donna J. Papa said.

With the losses still fresh on their minds, North Carolina was locked in and ready to get the job done once the clock hit 4 p.m. on Sunday. Through five innings of dominance, the Tar Heels coasted to a 16-4 mercy rule win.

This season, N.C. State has prided itself on the ability to hit the ball strongly and consistently. When N.C. State infielder Kaylee Lambrecht homered on just the third pitch of the game to give the Wolfpacks an early lead, it might have seemed as though UNC would yet again be victims to a Wolfpack scoring rampage. 

Instead, the Tar Heels stood their ground. Thanks to stellar pitching from first-year Lilli Backes, the Wolfpack’s gates to scoring more runs were closed and locked.

The momentum picked up for UNC with four runs in the first inning, but the entire team shined once the bottom of the second inning began. With an already comfortable 7-1 lead, the Tar Heels had two runners on base as anticipation filled the air in Anderson Stadium.

With one swing of the bat, that anticipation burst as redshirt sophomore outfielder Kianna Jones launched a a three-run homer to break the game wide open.

“Our goal was like keep our swings short and know what your plan is going into the box to just get it done,” Jones said. “It was a lot of excitement and I think we were all fired up because having the ability to get ahead like that was great for our pitching staff and the entire team.”

In just the second inning alone, the Tar Heels accumulated 11 runs. After N.C. State went through a total of three pitchers throughout the game, a win was practically secured. 

“It was so bizarre and I don't think I've ever been on a team that’s scored like that, but it was a good confidence boost,” sophomore outfielder Kiannah Pierce said. 

After getting swept by top-10 Virginia Tech last weekend, the win gives the team some momentum heading into the final month of the regular season. The Tar Heels will play Appalachian State on Wednesday before playing another home series against Clemson.

Although the team has been up and down in recent weeks, a series win over a rival can only be described as a step in the right direction.  

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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