The UNC softball team (23-26, 6-16 ACC) fell to the Syracuse Orange (23-20, 5-15 ACC), 3-1, in the first game of its weekend series.
The first game of the series got off to a slow start as neither team registered a run until the fourth inning. The Tar Heels failed to capitalize on early scoring opportunities, as they left two runners on base in the first inning, and one in the third.
In the top of the fourth, junior third baseman Destiny Middleton got things started for the Tar Heels with a single up the middle. After advancing to third, Middleton stole home to give UNC a 1-0 lead.
Syracuse was quick to respond. That same inning, a solo home run from sophomore outfielder Angel Jasso tied the score up 1-1.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Tar Heels had an opportunity to take the lead after loading the bases with one out. Syracuse would ultimately end the frame unscathed, as first-year utility Alex Brown fouled out to third base, and pinch-hitter Kiersten Licea flied out to center field.
The game remained in a deadlock until Syracuse graduate student Neli Casares-Maher stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Jasso on base following a fielder’s choice, Casares-Maher lifted a pitch to center field to put the Orange up 3-1. Her home run ended up being the deciding factor in Friday’s game, after the Tar Heels failed to rally in the last inning.
Who stood out?
Casares-Maher is the ultimate hero of Friday’s game, as her home run gave the Orange the lead late in the game.
SU sophomore pitcher Lindsey Hendrix also deserves credit for her lengthy performance on the mound. Tossing a full seven innings, and 105 total pitches, Hendrix allowed no earned runs and kept UNC at bay despite several Tar Heel scoring opportunities.
When was it decided?
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with one runner on base, Casares-Maher homered to put the Orange up 3-1.
UNC had a chance to tie things up the following inning. With two runners on and one out, senior catcher Taylor Greene stepped up to the plate. Greene reached on a fielder’s choice, as her choppy hit was scooped up by Syracuse’s shortstop for the out at second. A pop-up from Middleton on the next at-bat gave Syracuse the final out of the inning, and sealed the score at 3-1.
Why does it matter?
Friday’s game continues UNC’s trend of falling to the long ball. In the Tar Heels’ recent series against Florida State, the team gave up nine home runs over the course of the weekend. In the Saturday game of UNC’s last series, two home runs from Notre Dame erased a three-run lead the Tar Heels built in the first inning. In Friday’s game, with all of Syracuse’s runs coming from homers, it seems that the long ball is still a major factor in this recent string of UNC losses.
When do they play next?
UNC will take on Syracuse in the second game of its series on Saturday, May 7, with the game set to start at 1 p.m.