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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina softball team can't back up Lilli Backes gem in 1-0 loss to Virginia


Sophomore pitcher Lilli Backes (99) pitches the ball at a game against the University of Michigan on Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022. The Tar Heels lost 0-8.

The UNC softball team (13-24, 3-8 ACC) wasted a brilliant Lillie Backes performance in the circle Saturday afternoon, falling 1-0 against Virginia (25-10, 6-5 ACC).

What happened?

In the first inning, senior second basemen Abby Settlemyre earned the 100th hit of her career with a swinging bunt along the third base line. This was all the Tar Heels could produce, though, as a hard hit ground out to the second baseman ended the frame.

Junior right fielder Skyler Brooks showcased her speed in the second, reaching on a soft grounder to the pitcher and then stealing second and third base. Virginia pitcher Jenny Bressler once again relinquished the danger by striking out the next two batters. In the bottom of the frame, sophomore pitcher Backes retired the Cavaliers in order for the second straight inning.

The Cavaliers earned their first hit of the game in the third, sending a Backes pitch right back up the middle for a single. A fielder’s choice back to Backes moved the runner into scoring position with just one out. She was able to evade the jam by inducing a hard fly out to right field and an over-the-shoulder grab by fifth-year first baseman Kiersten Licea.

With two outs in the fourth, sophomore designated player Carlie Myrtle worked out a full-count walk to earn UNC’s first baserunner in eight batters. The next hitter, Brooks, lazily popped out to the shortstop, keeping the game scoreless.

Both pitchers continued their dominance in the fifth. Bressler struck out the side in the top of the inning, and Backes retired the Cavaliers in three pitches in the bottom of the frame. The teams entered the sixth tied at zero.

A two-out rally in the sixth gave the Tar Heels just their second runner in scoring position all game. Settlemyre produced a walk and sophomore shortstop Alex Brown hit UNC’s third infield single of the game. On just the first pitch of the at-bat, though, Myrtle hit a hard grounder to the shortstop who flipped onto second to retire the side. 

Virginia walked it off in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, a rocket off the bat sneaked under the driving glove of senior third basemen Destiny Middleton. The shortstop Brown who was backing her up threw the ball over the glove of Licea at first base, advancing the runner to second. The next batter doubled just past the glove of junior left fielder Carsyn Snead and the game-winning run crossed home plate. 

Who stood out? 

With her offense incapable of producing a run, Backes proved why she was UNC’s ace. Through her 6.1 innings of work, she allowed just five hits and struck out four. The single earned run drops her ERA to 2.72 on the season, all the way down from 6.41 in 2022. 

When was it decided?

The game was not decided until Backes’ 85th pitch of the game. With UNC unable to score all game, the lone run was all Virginia needed to secure the victory. 

Why does it matter?

UNC has now dropped three of its four ACC series of the season, and its conference record falls to 3-8. The loss also highlighted the offensive struggles that have plagued the team all year. The Tar Heels were shut out for the second straight game and could only produce three hits, all of which were infield singles. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will wrap up their series weekend series against Virginia tomorrow afternoon.


@dthsports |

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