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'It's all momentum': UNC softball clinches weekend series over Georgia Tech

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UNC first-year catcher and infielder Isabela Emerling (13) warms up before the game against North Carolina Central University on Feb. 21, 2023.

Four innings into the final game of the tied series against Georgia Tech, the North Carolina softball team had not recorded a single hit. 

The Tar Heels earned a few walks and delivered some stellar pitches, but found themselves down early from a lack of offensive fire. The stagnancy was rare for UNC, which boasts the fourth-highest batting average in the NCAA. 

Everything changed in the fourth inning. Redshirt sophomore Isabela Emerling stepped up to the plate with two Tar Heels on base. Down two runs, there was only one thing for Emerling to do — and she delivered. 

Her three-run moonshot led the Tar Heels to the series clinch against the Yellow Jackets with a 7-2 victory on Sunday afternoon, but the hits didn’t stop there. UNC’s hot bats scored two runs in each of the following innings, relying on momentum and the entire lineup to rebuild the lead.

Emerling said she was not surprised by the slow start from her team. It was somewhat of a continuation from Saturday’s game: a lethargic 6-2 loss to the Yellow Jackets.

According to graduate catcher Autumn Owen, the team knew the final game of the series would be a dogfight. So, how exactly did North Carolina pull it off?

Two Georgia Tech throwing errors in a row and one stolen base put runners on the corner bags. When Emerling stepped up to the plate, she wasn’t feeling pressured, stressed or scared. She didn’t feel like the moment was a make or break for the outcome of the game. After reminding her team that they were in control of the game despite the score, she knew she had to keep things smooth. 

“I had to realize that I'm strong without doing too much,” Emerling said, “and let the ball come to me.”

And come to her it did. Her lead-securing hit marked her 10th homer of the season. 

Not only did Emerling’s homer claim the advantage for the Tar Heels, but it also opened a floodgate. From then on, the Tar Heels seemed impossible to stop in the batters’ box, driving home at least two runs per inning in the following frames. 

“It's all momentum — once we got going, we weren't calling the dogs off,” junior outfielder Alex Coleman said.

Coleman, who led North Carolina to its victory in the series opener Friday on 3-of-4 hitting, said she could trust her teammates during Sunday’s game. Though she leads the NCAA in batting average, the outfielder did not record a single hit Sunday. 

She said it's great to know her teammates have each other's backs whenever anyone is having an off-day. No matter where a batter lands in the batting order, the team knows they can rely on each other to get the job done on any given night. 

“It doesn't have to be one or nobody — it's everybody. We all feed off of each other," Owen said.

The weekend series win showed that North Carolina can win in a variety of ways and with a variety of its roster. Owen said it doesn’t matter if the team sports strong hitting from the jump or if the hits come later down the line. 

With ACC play in full swing, the team will be making small adjustments in its practices before the series opener against Notre Dame on Thursday. Coleman said trusting themselves, each other and the coaches will help them roll into the coming matchups. 

“It doesn't matter how we do it,” Owen said. “We just get it done.” 

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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