The North Carolina softball team (20-20, 5-10 ACC) lost to Louisville (21-16, 5-7 ACC) on Sunday, 5-2, dropping the weekend series to the Cardinals.
First year pitcher Lilli Backes got the nod for the Tar Heels, and she notched two quick outs against Carmyn Greenwood and Taylor Roby to start the game. Kendall Smith got the Cardinals’ offense going with a double to right field, but Backes forced a popup to third base to complete the scoreless first inning.
After limited offense in the second frame for UNC, Backes continued to force weak ground balls and had a four-pitch punch out of Ally Alexander to keep the game scoreless through two innings.
Louisville scored the first runs of the game at the bottom of the third. After a single and a bunt put runners on base, Smith singled up the middle to score Jenna Servi and advance Greenwood to third. Then, a perfectly executed squeeze bunt from Korbe Otis scored Greenwood to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, before two straight strikeouts from Backes stopped the bleeding.
While UNC struggled to make anything happen against Roby, Louisville’s ace, the Cardinals continued to add to their lead in the fourth inning with a hard hit ball to the left field fence from Greenwood, good for an RBI triple.
At the top of the fifth, the Tar Heels collected their first hit of the game with a single slapped into right field from Abby Settlemyre. Settlemyre was advanced to second by an infield single from Kiannah Pierce, but that’s where she would stay after two pop outs and a groundout left her on base. The bottom of the frame started with back to back doubles from Smith and Otis. Otis scored on a single from Dylann Cravens, extending the Cardinals’ lead to five runs going into the penultimate inning.
After UNC’s Skylar Brooks reached base on a hit by pitch to start the sixth inning, she scored on a double to right center from Sara Jubas, who was tagged out rounding second base on the play. Taylor Greene followed that up with a double to left, and she was brought home by a line drive up the middle from Kianna Jones, making it a 5-2 game.
Who stood out?
Roby tossed a gem for the Cardinals, not allowing a hit through four innings as the Tar Heels once again struggled to figure her out. Solid performances from the entire Cardinals’ batting lineup backed Roby up, even after UNC was able to put some runs on the board late.
For the Tar Heels, Backes was effective for the first few innings before Louisville’s bats eventually came alive. Jubas’ RBI double in the sixth inning swung some momentum UNC’s way, but it was too little, too late.
When was it decided?
With three runs to make up in the final inning, UNC caught a tough break as Destiny Middleton lined one straight to Roby for the first out. Leadoff hitter Bri Stubbs worked up to a full count, but chopped a ball to third base for the second out of the inning. Brooks reached base on a single to shortstop, but Jubas lined out to left field for the final out of the game.
Why does it matter?
With Roby back in the circle for the Cardinals, UNC’s batters faced an uphill battle in the deciding game of the series. The Tar Heels couldn’t get much action going early like they had been able to do in Saturday’s victory, and Louisville built up a lead that the Tar Heels couldn’t quite surmount.
With the series loss, the Tar Heels continue to sink in the ACC standings. Next weekend, UNC will play a tough home series against a ranked Florida State team. In the meantime, they will try and right the ship with a midweek matchup against Campbell.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play a midweek game against the Campbell Fighting Camels on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.
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