The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday July 7th

After evenly matched first two games, UNC softball falls shorts in finale against FSU

Shortstop Skyler Brooks (24) passes the ball to first base to get a Florida State hitter out. UNC lost to Florida State 2-9 at home on Sunday, April 17, 2022.
Buy Photos Shortstop Skyler Brooks (24) passes the ball to first base to get a Florida State hitter out. UNC lost to Florida State 2-9 at home on Sunday, April 17, 2022.

As Florida State’s Jahni Kerr stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against UNC, “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen played in the background.

Tar Heel pitcher Lilli Backes had just fanned Michaela Edenfield for the first out of the inning, and the audio technicians in the North Carolina press booth had started to celebrate by playing the taunting song.

They might’ve celebrated too soon.

On the very first pitch of Kerr’s at-bat, the song faded as she lifted a pitch over UNC’s navy blue fence.

Just like the steady, incessant baseline of the Queen song, the repetitive thwack! of Seminole home runs rang throughout Anderson Stadium this weekend, as the series ended in a 9-2 loss for UNC.

Ultimately, nine of FSU’s 12 runs in this series came as a result of the long ball, and the Seminoles recorded five total home runs on the weekend. Four of these bombs came on Sunday, behind the bats of Mack Leonard, Kalei Harding — who hit two — and Kerr.

“Today was the only day that we weren’t, pitching-wise, as solid as we had been Friday and Saturday,” head coach Donna J. Papa said. “Florida State’s an excellent team so they capitalized on that.”

Despite ultimately dropping the series to the Seminoles, UNC proved they could contend with the ranked competition.

On Saturday, Backes allowed three hits and one run in the entire game, helping UNC secure the 5-1 win. In Friday’s game, in which UNC fell 2-0, North Carolina’s Hannah George battled in the circle, holding FSU scoreless for most of the game.

“I think that our pitchers really worked hard this week and focused on what they needed to execute, so I think they gave us a good chance,” senior catcher Taylor Greene said. “I think we just need to find a way to make adjustments earlier in the game so we can score our runners when they are on.”

As much as giving up home runs, leaving runners on base plagued the Tar Heels throughout the weekend.

In Friday’s shutout, UNC was unable to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities. In the first inning of the series-opener, the scoreboard remained 0-0 despite two Tar Heel hits. Later in the third inning, despite piecing together a walk and a single, North Carolina exited the frame with no runs to show for it.

In Sunday’s game, these troubles continued for the Tar Heels. The last game of the series saw UNC leave five different batters on base, and hit .200 with runners in scoring position, compared to FSU’s .429 average in this category.

“I think (Sunday), it took us a little bit longer to make adjustments in the first three innings,” Papa said. “But after that, we did a good job of getting on base, and just needed to find a way to push the runs across and have our pitchers hold it down on their side.”

In Saturday’s win, the necessary adjustments were made early. With two runners on in the second inning, first-year Alex Brown tripled to right field to score them. Another hit from graduate Sara Jubas would in turn score Brown, putting UNC up 3-1 to earn the early lead.

Scoring runners in position, in combination with holding back Florida State’s hefty roster of power hitters, allowed North Carolina its one win of the series.

Regardless of the senior day excitement UNC felt in pulling off the upset on Saturday, the Tar Heels failed to put together the necessary pieces on Sunday. The Seminole bats lit up again in the series-deciding game, and the barrage of home runs that ensued was too much for North Carolina to weather.

“Sunday is championship Sunday,” Papa said. “You’ve got to find a way to put that together. That one’s the toughest of the series always.”

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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