The North Carolina softball team (5-3) fell to No. 25 Maryland (7-1), 5-3, on Saturday evening in the second leg of a doubleheader.
Three walks in the first inning for graduate transfer pitcher Bailey McCachren left her in an early bases-loaded mess. A long flyout to junior Skyler Brooks in right field dismissed the threat. The red-hot fifth-year first baseman Kiersten Licea put the Tar Heels up in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single to left field, where Brooks used her speed to hustle to the plate from second to give the team the early lead.
The Terrapins responded in the third. After recording their first hit of the game, Amelia Lech almost hit the scoreboard with a rocket over the left-center wall. The two-run home run flipped the lead, and the Tar Heels could not manage to take it back in the bottom of the frame.
Maryland doubled that lead in the fourth with an RBI groundout to the shortstop, but the Tar Heels refused to yield. They put their speed on display, grinding a run back with four infield hits in the inning. With the bases loaded, though, senior Destiny Middleton lunged for an offspeed pitch and struck out swinging, keeping Maryland with the slight edge.
The back-and-forth offense continued in the fifth with Maryland stealing a run back from UNC. A two-out double to the left field wall gave the Terrapins their two-run lead back, and then the Tar Heels cut the deficit in half again when senior Bri Stubbs scampered home on a wild pitch. The fifth inning ended with a score of 4-3.
Maryland made it five straight half-innings with a run in the sixth. A lunging Stubbs in center field could not make a spectacular catch, leading to an RBI double. UNC ended this streak in the bottom of the inning by going down 1-2-3 and had a similar lack of success in the seventh.
Who stood out?
Licea, UNC’s hottest hitter, continued to dominate with two hits and an RBI. Brooks and Stubbs also had multi-hit games.
McCachren fought all night in the circle. Despite allowing four earned runs on the evening, she was able to pitch a complete game. UNC had to use four pitchers in the first game of the day, so this effort was extremely valuable to the rotation.
When was it decided?
With UNC’s ability to come back late in games, the game was not over until the final out. Destiny Middleton led off the seventh inning with a single, but a caught stealing ended any late threat for the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
With the loss, UNC falls to 0-3 against ranked opponents on the season. After sweeping Minnesota earlier, this was an opportunity to make a statement and secure a winning record in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play the Terrapins again Sunday in their final ACC-Big Ten Challenge game.
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