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Sunday June 26th

UNC softball falls to 0-2 in its series against Notre Dame, losing 7-5

First year utility player Alex Brown (5) throws the ball towards first base in a home game against NC Central. UNC won 8-0 against North Carolina Central University on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
Buy Photos First year utility player Alex Brown (5) throws the ball towards first base in a home game against NC Central. UNC won 8-0 against North Carolina Central University on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

After a 4-1 loss on Friday to kick off its series against No. 20 Notre Dame (34-9, 12-5), UNC softball (23-24, 6-14) lost once again on Saturday 7-5.

What happened?

After a slow offensive performance last night, UNC showed out at the plate in the top of the first on Saturday. Sophomore midfielder Skyler Brooks was walked to first to kick off the game and quickly stole second. A single by graduate student shortstop Sara Jubas and groundouts by junior outfielder Bri Stubbs and sophomore outfielder Kiannah Pierce that advanced the runners allowed Brooks to score to give North Carolina an early lead. 

Senior center Taylor Greene homered, allowing Jubas to score and advancing the UNC lead to 3-0 after the top of the first.

First-year pitcher Lilli Backes struggled in the bottom of the first, allowing a walk after hitting a batter and then allowing said batter to advance to second on a wild pitch. When Notre Dame lessened the North Carolina lead to 3-2, Backes was taken off the mound and replaced by sophomore pitcher Talia Hannappel. Hannappel was unable to get UNC out of the inning while maintaining the lead. A Fighting Irish two-RBI homer gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead after the first.

North Carolina started the second inning off with a single by redshirt-sophomore pitcher and utility player Kianna Jones. Brooks also had a single in the second and Jubas walked, but UNC failed to score. Hannappel was more successful at the mound in the bottom of the second and was able to get the Tar Heels out of the inning without the Fighting Irish advancing their lead. 

With two batters striking out swinging and another fouling out to first base, North Carolina struggled at the plate in the third. The Fighting Irish proved far more successful in the third, with a two-RBI homer that made the score 6-3. The Tar Heels once again changed pitchers to first-year Carlie Myrtle, but similar to the last pitching change, it didn’t stop the Fighting Irish from scoring more. The third inning ended with a 7-3 Notre Dame lead.

The Tar Heels had a slow offensive inning again in the fourth, with only one hit by Brooks and no runs. Notre Dame put up the same batting stats in the fourth to keep the score 7-3. UNC also failed to score in the fifth, with the only offensive action being a single by junior Destiny Middleton. The Fighting Irish also didn’t score in the fifth.

Things looked up for North Carolina in the sixth due to defensive struggles by the Fighting Irish. First-year catcher Annie Kate Dalton walked to start the inning, and sophomore outfielder Aneshia Jordan ran in her place. A wild pitch allowed Jordan to advance to third, and a throwing error brought in the run to make the score 7-4. Not only did the Notre Dame defense struggle in the sixth, its offense did too. It had three up-three down with two pop-ups and a ground out.

UNC had one final chance to come back in the seventh. Pierce doubled to kick off the inning, and Greene followed with a single. Middleton flied out but had an RBI to make the score 7-5. Jones singled to the pitcher and redshirt junior Lexi Godwin grounded out but allowed the runners to advance. The Tar Heels’ comeback attempt would be cut short after Brooks grounded out to end the game in a 7-5 loss.

Who stood out? 

Greene had a strong performance at the plate on Saturday, with two hits, two RBIs and a run. Her offensive dominance aided the Tar Heels in their comeback efforts. Brooks also aided the UNC offense with her two hits and a run in her four at bats.

After her predecessors struggled on the mound, Myrtle held Notre Dame to only three hits and one run in her four innings pitched. Although she couldn’t reverse the Fighting Irish’s early offensive dominance, Myrtle’s pitching performance made a North Carolina comeback a possibility.

When was it decided?

North Carolina’s strong offensive performance in the first was hopeful, but Notre Dame was even more successful in the first, making it seem that Saturday’s game would be close and high-scoring. However, the Fighting Irish’s offense continued to show out throughout the game as UNC’s slowed down. By the time Notre Dame had a 7-3 lead over the Tar Heels, it was fair to assume they would win the second game of the series.

Why does it matter?

Saturday's loss also means a series loss for North Carolina. Not only this, but it drops UNC's win percentage under .500. To finish the regular season above .500, the Tar Heels will need to win three of their final four regular season games.

When do they play next?

UNC will look to redeem itself in the final game of the Notre Dame series at noon on Sunday.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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