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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC softball defeats Winthrop, 7-1, behind stellar Kenna Raye Dark performance in circle

20220416 - CAROLINA SOFTBALL VS. FLORIDA STATE-07.jpg
UNC freshman pitcher Lilli Backes (99) pitches the ball during the softball game at Anderson Stadium on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

The UNC softball team (7-9) defeated Winthrop (10-4) Tuesday afternoon, 7-1, at Anderson Softball Stadium in Chapel Hill.

What happened?

Sloppy play contributed to an early lead for the Eagles. A dropped fly ball off Kiersten Licea’s glove in right field and a hit-by-pitch handed Winthrop a run. Baily McCachren was pulled after just a third of an inning, the second time this season she was unable to get out of the first. Kenna Raye Dark came in and induced a double play to stop any further damage.

Three walks would give Tar Heels a bases-loaded opportunity of their own in the bottom of the frame. Sophomore shortstop Alex Brown converted the chance with a bases-clearing double into the left-center gap, and UNC took a 3-1 lead into the second inning.

Dark continued her dominant outing in relief in the third by retiring the Eagles in order. Winthrop showed sloppy play of their own in the bottom of the third. With ​​Aneshia Jordan on second, the Eagle shortstop made a diving play to her right but overthrew the outstretched glove of the third baseman. Jordan rounded third and headed home to add to the Tar Heel lead.

Dark found her first trouble in the fourth. After allowing her first two hits of the outing, the Eagles had bases loaded and just one out. She escaped unscathed, though, by forcing two popups, one to the second baseman and the other to the catcher. 

The Tar Heels blew the doors open in the fifth. Brown added her second hit of the game with an infield single, and Jordan scored all the way from second base with Winthrop defenders paying her no attention. The next batter, Redshirt junior Kianna Jones, brought Brown home with a double off the base of the left-field wall. Carlie Myrtle added another run with a double of her own, and the Tar Heels ended the fifth with a 7-1 lead.

Winthrop managed a double in the seventh, but Dark capped off her afternoon with a deep flyout to the warning track in left field, delivering UNC the six-run victory.

Who stood out? 

Dark shined in relief, allowing just 4 hits in 6.2 innings pitched. The first-year has had an up-and-down season thus far, entering the game with a 4.36 ERA. She will be a key component of this rotation alongside Lilli Backes and McCachren all season.

From the plate, Brown produced the winning runs for UNC with her three-run double in the first. With her two hits, she increased her batting average to .333 and is just one hit shy from her 16-hit season total in 2022.

When was it decided?

The three-run fifth inning cemented the game for the Tar Heels. The Eagles could not get anything going against Dark all game so were unable to climb out of the six-run hole. With the Tar Heels struggling in close games throughout the season, the insurance runs were a sigh of relief for UNC. 

Why does it matter?

After losing all five games during the Joan Joyce Classic over the weekend, the win ends UNC’s streak against a good Winthrop team. With the Tar Heels having another tough weekend tournament ahead in the Carolina Classic, they cannot afford to drop these weekday contests.

When do they play next?

UNC travels to Columbia tomorrow to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks.

@brendan_lunga18

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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