The North Carolina softball team (21-25) won a thriller against the N.C. State Wolfpack (16-29) on Friday evening, 5-4, in Raleigh.
The Tar Heels earned their first baserunner of the game in the second when senior first baseman Kiersten Licea drew a leadoff walk. Three consecutive groundouts stranded Licea on second base, though. In the bottom of the inning, Backes’ rise ball fooled Wolfpack batters, striking out the side swinging.
After the Tar Heels went down in order, Lilli Backes continued her sensational beginning to the outing in the third by striking out the side once again. Her seventh-consecutive strikeout put a cap on three perfect innings for the pitcher.
In the fourth, senior center fielder Bri Stubbs found a hole up the middle, and redshirt senior second baseman Abby Settlemyre reached on a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Licea capitalized, ripping an RBI single down the third base line, just past the diving glove of the Wolfpack third baseman. Later in the inning, senior third baseman Destiny Middleton doubled that lead with a one-out fielder’s choice to first base.
Backes’ perfect game watch was ended with a bang to lead off the fourth when sophomore third baseman Hannah Goodwin smashed a poorly executed rise ball over the center field wall. With runners on first and second, N.C. State tied the game with a long double off the base of the right-field wall. The next batter took the lead for the Wolfpack with a hard grounder that bounced off Middleton’s glove, scoring the runner from third. A final score was added when a one-out sac fly was poked into left field, and NC State ended the inning up 4-2.
The Tar Heels fought back in the fifth. Junior left fielder Carsyn Snead showed off her speed by barely beating out a bunt single. She crossed home plate after sophomore shortstop Alex Brown rocketed a one-out triple down the right-field line. Stubbs quickly tied the game, bringing Brown home on an RBI groundout to the shortstop.
UNC took the lead in the sixth with a two-out rally. The Tar Heels worked two runners on, and Brown shot a liner off the diving shortstop’s glove and into left field, bringing in the leading run from second. Working in her second inning of relief, junior Talia Hannappel retired the Wolfpack in order in the seventh to secure the victory for UNC.