The North Carolina softball team found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard all weekend against No. 18 Clemson.
As for the softballs: they were on the wrong side of the fence.
The Tar Heels had a rough three days in their latest weekend series against the Tigers, losing two games with a score of 12-4, and one with a score of 7-0. Clemson hit the ball out of the park all weekend long — making it difficult for UNC pitchers to get in any rhythm.
Clemson hit three home runs in the first game, including a seventh-inning grand slam. They hit three more the next day and piled on four in the final game — three of which came in the same inning.
Giving up home runs has been an issue for the team this season. In their last ACC series against N.C. State last month, they gave up a total of 14.
Coming into the series against Clemson, the Tar Heel pitching core had a game plan for keeping the ball in play — especially with Tigers’ slugger Marissa Guimbarda coming to the plate with nine home runs on the season.
“The game plan was to use our whole staff, basically — (and) to use our multiple different arms and our capabilities,” senior pitcher Hannah George said.
Despite their efforts — such as rolling out George, first-year pitchers Carlie Myrtle and Lilli Backes and sophomore pitcher Talia Hannappel — UNC could not find an answer.
And as the leader of the group, George took ownership, especially over her own performance.
“Personally, I didn’t execute what needed to be done to give my team a chance to win,” George said.
Her catcher, senior Taylor Greene, was less critical. She tried to reassure and refocus her pitchers through difficult stretches.
“I tell them the same thing every day no matter what it is,” Greene said. “I tell them that I have their back and I’m there for them and that they know that I’m working as hard as I can to get every pitch for them. I believe in them 100%.”
But all entirety of the blame didn’t fall on George and the rest of the bullpen.
UNC committed some costly errors on the field, even going through dry periods on the offensive end where it seemed like they couldn’t buy a hit or get a rally started.
In games where the defense couldn’t stop Clemson’s offensive attack, the Tar Heels needed their offense to step up, but their efforts weren’t enough to change the weekend's outcomes.
On Saturday, UNC was shutout for the first time since its series opener against then No. 6 Virginia Tech on March 18.
Junior outfielder Bri Stubbs noted the importance of having confidence at the plate regardless of the score.
“You have to find a way to allow yourself to fail because this is a failure sport,” Stubbs said. “And once you get in that mindset, you also allow yourself to succeed with confidence and know that you’re able to do what you can in the moment.”
With a month left in the regular season, UNC has time to learn and grow from these experiences, beginning with Wednesday's game against Charlotte and this weekend's series against Louisville.
And under the leadership of head coach Donna J. Papa, improvement is a given.
“Coach P is the best fuel to cause change in our program and in our team,” George said. “She takes what we did wrong, and we focus on it during the week to be better for next week.”
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