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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC softball avoids sweep against Virginia with game three victory in Charlottesville

UNC senior Destiny Middleton (47) waits at second base during the softball game against Elon at Anderson Stadium on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. UNC beat Elon 9-5.

The North Carolina softball team (14-24, 4-8 ACC) defeated the Virginia Cavaliers (25-11, 6-6 ACC), 5-3, on Sunday to avoid being swept in the weekend series. 

What happened?

In the top of the first inning, the Tar Heels managed to get an early start taking the lead for the first time during the series with sophomore shortstop Alex Brown reaching home. In the bottom of the first frame, after a single from Virginia’s Abby Weaver that advanced Jade Hylton to home, North Carolina was unable to hold the advantage making the game 1-1. 

While the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers both found contact in the second stretch with a single from senior third baseman Destiny Middleton and two hits from Virginia, both teams were unable to successfully touch home plate. After a silent third inning, the Tar Heels were unable to capitalize even with bases loaded in the top of the fourth. 

In the bottom of the fourth frame, the Tar Heels lost control after Virginia’s Gabby Baylog hit a double to center field, and Kailyn Jones singled to right field in successive at bats. While UNC was able to end the inning shortly after with two quick outs, leaving the fourth, Virginia took the lead 3-1. 

Refusing to give up and avoiding a sweep, after fifth-year Kiersten Licea got hit by a pitch, Brown was able to reach home plate for the second time in the top of the fifth. Building on the momentum, Middleton hit a critical triple to center field that brought in three runs. After a three up, three down performance from UNC in the bottom of the fifth, the Heels sat on top 5-3.  

Unable to score in the top of the sixth, North Carolina worked to hold the Cavaliers. After turning a double play, the Tar Heels exited the inning maintaining the lead.  While North Carolina went three up, three down in the seventh stretch, Backes worked to end the game striking out Hylton to recover the series and win 5-3.

Who stood out? 

Brown, who possesses the second-highest batting average on the team, was a point of consistency for the Tar Heels. Going 4-4 with two runs, Brown played a critical role in North Carolina’s win. Along with Brown, in the top of fifth, Middleton hit a pivotal triple that allowed the Heels to take the lead which they held for the rest of the game.

On the mound, sophomore pitcher Lilli Backes, who has a 2.82 ERA, pitched for all seven innings, struck out six Virginia batters and allowed no runs after the fourth inning. With the offensive help from Middleton and Brown and stellar pitching from Backes, the Tar Heels were able to hold off Virginia to close the weekend series. 

When was it decided?

Virginia struggled to recover after Middleton’s triple in the top of the fifth led to three runs and Backes found an unstoppable groove. 

Why does it matter?

Being beaten twice by Virginia during this weekend’s series, with today’s win, UNC avoided being swept after not scoring a point in the first two games. As the Tar Heels look toward the rest of the season, adding wins like this and proving their offensive capabilities even while down is important for their catalog. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on the UNCG Spartans on Tuesday, April 4 at 5 p.m. in Greensboro. 

@dthsports |

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