|North Carolina (24-5, 5-0 ACC)||0||1||0||0||0||1||1||1||4||10||0|
|Virginia Tech (10-13, 2-7 ACC)||0||0||0||0||0||3||0||0||3||7||1|
Blacksburg, Va. – North Carolina’s resilience shined through on Saturday afternoon, as the Tar Heels came back after an hour and forty minute rain delay to regain the lead and defeat Virginia Tech, 4-3, in eight innings. UNC had led for the majority of the game, but gave up the lead in the bottom of the sixth, just before the delay, but when the clouds parted, the Tar Heels got the job done, winning their eighth straight and clinching their second ACC series victory of the season. With the win, Carolina tops its best record in program history at 24-5, including a perfect 5-0 in ACC play, while Virginia Tech falls to 10-13 (2-6 ACC).
Sophomore Katie Bailiff was responsible for three of UNC’s four runs in the game, with two doubles and an RBI, scoring the game-winning run in the top of the eighth. Katelyn Shifflett had an RBI single and sent Bailiff home in the eighth on a sacrifice fly, and Kendra Lynch had the game-tying hit in the top of the seventh. Brittany Pickett went 2-for-4 with a double, and four other Tar Heels singled in the game.
Lynch started in the circle for Carolina and brought a two-hit shutout into the bottom of the sixth, but left with two outs in the inning after giving up the lead on two home runs. The senior allowed a total of three runs on five hits and a walk over 5.2 innings. Hannah Nommensen retired the lone batter she saw in the bottom of the sixth. Following the rain delay, Pickett (11-0) came in to close out the game for Carolina and tossed two shutout innings, allowing two hits with a strikeout to seal up her 11th victory of the season.
Taylor Barnes (2-3) went 7.0+ innings, allowing all four runs, three earned, on 10 hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Aysha Richardson entered with runners on in the top of the eighth and retired three straight but allowed an inherited runner to score the go-ahead run on a sac fly.
Vanessa Gonzalez led all players at the plate, going 3-for-4 and gave Tech the lead with a two-run home run in the sixth before UNC pushed back in front in the final inning.
Carolina got on the board first in the top of the second, as Bailiff doubled to right center and Shifflett drove in pinch runner Hailey Cole with a two-out single up the middle.
UNC added an insurance run in the top of the sixth. Taylor Wike led off with a four-pitch walk, then the second baseman couldn’t get the ball out of her glove for an error allowing Wike and Berlynne Delamora to reach safely. Lynch moved the runners into scoring position with a ground out, and a ground ball by Bailiff allowed Wike to come home and score.
Virginia Tech had mustered just two hits over the first five innings, but a leadoff home run by Jessie Mehr cut the Tar Heels’ lead in half with one swing. Olivia Lattin kept the inning going with a two-out single, then Vanessa Gonzalez gave Virginia Tech the lead with a two-run home run down the left field line.
Pickett led off the top of the seventh with a single to left center. Micaela Abbatine replaced her on first with a fielder’s choice, then Leah Murray singled to put two speedy Tar Heels on with one out. With the momentum going back Carolina’s way, lightning struck in the area and both teams were forced to vacate for a weather delay.
After an hour-and-forty-minute delay, Wike got the Heels going with a single up the middle, loading the bases. Delamora struck out, but Lynch drilled the first pitch down the third base line with two outs. Abbatine came home to score and Murray rounded and touched home, but missed third base on her way there and was called out to end the inning with the score knotted at three.
Pickett came in and pitched a perfect bottom of the seventh, sending the game into extra innings. Bailiff led off the top of the seventh with a double to center field. Destiny DeBerry followed with an infield single to put runners on the corners, then Shifflett got the job done with a sacrifice fly to send Bailiff across the plate and put UNC back on top, 4-3.
Two-out singles by Lattin and Gonzalez represented the tying and go-ahead runs for VT in the bottom of the eighth, but Pickett drew a pop up from Breanna Davenport to close out the game and give UNC its third extra-innings victory of the season.
North Carolina returns to Tech Softball Park on Sunday, March 19, for the series finale against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels will go for the sweep at 1 p.m.