Blacksburg, Va. – North Carolina opened its first ACC road series of the season on Friday afternoon with a visit to Virginia Tech on St. Patrick’s Day. Six runs over the final four innings led Carolina past the Hokies, 6-2, behind a complete-game effort in the circle from Brittany Pickett. The win marks UNC’s seventh straight, as Carolina improves to 23-5 (4-0 ACC), while Virginia Tech falls to 10-12 (2-5 ACC).
Taylor Wike led Carolina at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. Leah Murray was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, and Katie Bailiff was 1-for-2 with an RBI single and two walks. Destiny DeBerry put the Heels on the board with a two-run single, and Berlynne Delamora walked twice and picked up an RBI.
Brittany Pickett improved to 10-0 on the season with a complete-game victory in the circle, limiting Virginia Tech to one earned run on seven hits and two walks with a strikeout. The Tar Heel rookie displayed composure in the circle, holding the Hokies to 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Aysha Richardson (1-4) started for VT, allowing five runs on five hits and five walks with a strikeout over the first 4.1 innings. Carrie Eberle tossed the remaining 2.2 frames, surrendering one run on three hits and two walks with a strikeout.
UNC got the leadoff batter to third with no outs in the top of the first, but Virginia Tech’s defense held her there to keep Carolina off the board.
The Hokies also stranded a runner on third in the second and third innings, as it was not until the top of the fourth that a runner finally crossed the plate. Wike led off with a double down the right field line, then a pair of walks loaded the bases. DeBerry came through with a two-run single through the right side to plate two Tar Heels and give UNC a 2-0 lead.
Breanna Davenport cut UNC’s lead in half with one swing in the bottom of the fourth, crushing a solo home run over the scoreboard in right center.
Three timely hits led to three more Carolina runs in the top of the fifth. Pickett worked a leadoff walk, then Micaela Abbatine moved flex runner Campbell Hutcherson to second with a sacrifice bunt. Singles by Murray and Wike loaded the bases, then Delamora sent Hutcherson home with her 31st walk of the season. A sacrifice fly by Kendra Lynch scored Murray, then Bailiff roped a single off the first baseman’s glove to make it 5-1 Tar Heels.
Vanessa Gonzalez led off the bottom of the fifth with her second double of the game. Richardson dropped down for a sacrifice bunt but Delamora was unable to make the play, making it first and third with no outs. Pickett drew a pop up, but issued a walk to Olivia Lattin to load the bases. Another pop up made it two outs, but a hit batter scored an unearned run, before a fly out ended the inning.
The Tar Heels got the run back in the top of the seventh, as Murray led off with a single then Wike clocked an RBI double to deep center field.
Richardson led off the bottom of the seventh with an infield single, but that was it for the Hokies, as Pickett sealed up the complete-game victory with a strikeout for a final score of 6-2.
The Heels return to Tech Softball Park on Saturday, March 18, for the second game of the three-game series. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.