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Three takeaways from UNC softball's series with top-ranked Duke

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UNC sophomore infielder Caroline Fox (6) runs to third base during the softball game against Duke on Sunday, April 7, 2024, at Duke Softball Stadium. UNC fell to Duke 1-6.

DURHAM — The North Carolina softball team traveled to Durham this weekend and was swept 3-0 by the No. 1 Blue Devils. Here are three takeaways from the series' action:

Ability to fight against top competition 

Following the weekend’s action, the Blue Devils rose to No. 1 per Softball America. Although North Carolina was not able to win a game in the series, they showed fight against the nation’s top team. 

UNC faced one of the nation’s best pitchers in Duke’s Cassidy Curd. She dished out twelve strikeouts, no walks and no errors on Saturday. The game was over after five innings and eight unanswered Duke runs. 

Despite this shutout and the eventual series sweep, North Carolina was able to produce multiple hits and runs throughout the weekend. The ability to compete with the top-ranked team is an indicator of the power that this team can unleash. 

Capitalizing with runners in scoring position

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UNC graduate student third baseman Destiny Middleton (47) slides into second base during the softball game against Duke on Sunday, April 7, 2024, at Duke Softball Stadium. UNC fell to Duke 1-6.

The Tar Heels scored five runs across the three-game series. The team left a total of 20 baserunners on the bags to end its at-bats and was not able to capitalize when given opportunities.

Ten runners were left on base in the final game of the series, which UNC lost 6-1. This included two at-bats ended with the bases loaded.

This season, QABs — quality at-bats — are something head coach Megan Smith Lyon emphasized with her players. The team will look for QABs in the coming weeks as the Tar Heels look to get back in the win column. 

Utilizing the whole lineup 

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UNC junior outfielder Alex Coleman (3) prepares to bat during the softball game against Duke on Sunday, April 7, 2024, at Duke Softball Stadium. UNC fell to Duke 1-6.

Throughout the season, the Tar Heels have shown any player can make a difference. Whether it be a homer from redshirt sophomore infielder Isabela Emerling or a hit from junior outfielder Alex Coleman, the Tar Heels have shown they can score runs down their whole lineup. 

Coleman led the way in this series, going 6-of-9 and tallying one or more hits in every game played. Graduate Destiny Middleton also stood out for the Tar Heels, going 3-of-3 on the final game of play. However, the duo's leadership was not enough to pull out a win. 

In order to prevail against tough competition, North Carolina will look to utilize its whole lineup to score runs. Having started the season atop the NCAA in batting average, it will take a team effort to capitalize when it matters most. 

Sophomore Kenna Raye Dark started on the mound on Friday and Sunday. She recorded no strikeouts across the eight innings she pitched. Across the weekend, UNC played five different pitchers and tallied one strikeout. 

Pitching had previously been a bright spot for North Carolina. In February, first-year Nikki Harris served Mount St. Mary’s 13 strikeouts, the most for a UNC pitcher since 2019. In March, redshirt junior Britton Rogers tallied eight strikeouts against Virginia to lead the Tar Heels to the series victory

When North Carolina has a hot pitching night, it has proven hard to beat. By utilizing multiple starting pitchers, UNC has shown it has the potential to withstand sound hitting days.

The Tar Heels are back in Chapel Hill this Wednesday for a mid-week game against Longwood. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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