|When: May 19-21, 2017|
|Where: Ole Miss Softball Complex
|Tournament Central: Website|
|All-Session: $25 Rsvd./$20 GA/$15 Youth|
|Buy Tickets: OleMissTix.com|
|NCAA Bracket: Interactive | Printable|
|TV Coverage: ESPN & WatchESPN
|#12-seed Ole Miss: 40-18 (10-14 SEC)|
|Ole Miss Series: UNC leads 2-0|
|No. 22 Arizona St.: 30-20 (9-15 Pac-12)
|ASU Series: UNC trails 0-6|
|Southern Illinois: 33-22 (17-8 MVC)|
|SIU Series: UNC trails, 0-1|
OXFORD, MISS. - North Carolina opens the postseason in Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend, traveling to No. 13/16 Ole Miss for NCAA Regionals. Carolina begins the double-elimination weekend against No. 22 Arizona State at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, May 19. The 12th-seeded Rebels then play Southern Illinois in game two. This weekend will mark UNC's first trip to the state of Mississippi in program history.
SEC Tournament Champion Ole Miss was selected to host an NCAA Regional as the No. 12 overall seed and will host UNC, No. 22 Arizona State and Southern Illinois. The Rebels earned just their second-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament and will host as a national seed for the first time. Ole Miss received an at-large bid to 2016 NCAA Regionals in Norman, Okla., where it fell in the Regional Final to eventual national champion Oklahoma.
Arizona State is one of the most storied programs in postseason history, having appeared in 28 NCAA Tournaments, 11 Women's College World Series, and won the 2008 and 2011 National Championships. The Sun Devils are 89-55 all time in the postseason, including an impressive 14-3 at Super Regionals, and earned their 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid this season. ASU seeks its first Super Regional berth since 2013, where the Sun Devils swept Kentucky to reach the WCWS.
Southern Illinois rounds out the Oxford Regional as the #4-seed. The Salukis earned their 11th NCAA Tournament bid in program history and first since 2007 after winning the MVC Tournament. Current head coach Kerri Blaylock led SIU to five consecutive bids from 2003-07 before the nine-year drought.
Tickets are on sale now, with all-session passes priced at $25 for reserved chairbacks, $20 general admission, and $15 student/youth GA. Single-day passes will be $10 reserved, $7 GA and $5 students/youth.
Friday, May 19
Game 1 - #3 UNC vs. #2 Arizona State - 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Game 2 - #1 Ole Miss vs. #4 SIU - 8:30 PM CT (ESPN3)
Saturday, May 20
Game 3 - Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 - 1:30 PM CT
Game 4 - Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 - 4 PM CT
Game 5 - Loser G3 vs. Winner G4 - 6:30 PM CT
Sunday, May 21
Game 6 - Winner G3 vs. Winner G5 - 1:30 PM CT
*Game 7 (if necessary) - 4 PM CT
Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament
The Tar Heels earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time in program history, claiming the #3-seed at the Oxford Regional (#12 Ole Miss). The Tar Heels have advanced to the national postseason all-but-three years (2002, 2011, 2014) since its first berth in 2001. UNC has been selected as a host twice, in 2008 and 2009.
Carolina is 15-24 all time in the NCAA Tournament after going 1-2 last season at the Harrisonburg Regional. The Tar Heels have reached the Regional Final game four times (2005, 2009, 2010, 2012), but have never advanced to Super Regionals.
In 2005, the first season under the current four-team regional format, UNC defeated Canisius and Seton Hall to advance to the final game of the Ann Arbor Regional, but lost to eventual national champion Michigan, 6-0. Two years later in 2007, the Tar Heels were sent to the Knoxville Regional, where they lost, 2-0, to WCWS Runner-Up Tennessee.
Against the Field
UNC has played lopsided series against each of Oxford Regional participants. UNC is a perfect 2-0 against Ole Miss, but is 0-6 all time against ASU and lost its only meeting with SIU in 2007.
ASU has been ranked in each of the past four meetings, including No. 3 in the 7-4 decision in their last meeting on March 2, 2013, in Tempe. The-No. 23 UNC fell, 4-3, in nine innings to No. 16 Arizona State on Feb. 24, 2006, in the only meeting in which both teams were ranked. UNC dropped a doubleheader in Tempe on March 5, 1996, in their first-ever meetings.
UNC defeated Ole Miss, 2-1 and 3-0, in Chapel Hill on Leap Day of 2004 in their only-ever meetings. Then-No. 24 SIU defeated UNC, 3-2, on Feb. 23, 2007, prior to the Salukis' last trip to the NCAA Tournament in the only matchup in history between the two teams.
UNC is one of three ACC teams that received bids to the NCAA Tournament. ACC Champion Florida State received the No. 4 overall seed, while ACC Semifinalist Notre Dame will participate in the Auburn Regional.
Eleven of Carolina's regular-season opponents received bids the 2017 NCAA Tournament. UNC captured seven regular-season wins over postseason-bound teams, going a total of 7-13 against the Tournament field.
Tar Heels Reach ACC Title Game at Home
The Tar Heels have competed in the ACC Softball Championship every year since the inaugural tournament in 1992. Carolina has won at least one game in 21 of 26 tournaments and advanced to the title game for the fifth time in 2017. UNC is 30-40 all time in 26 appearances, including going a perfect 3-0 with back-to-back wins over top-seeded No. 16 Florida State to capture the 2001 ACC Championship.
Since the move to a single-elimination bracket in 2008, Carolina has advanced to the Semifinals every season and played in the Championship game in 2011 and 2017, where it fell to Florida State both times.
UNC has claimed the #1-seed five times in program history but advanced to the final game as the top seed just once. UNC was the #2-seed for its ACC Championship season in 2001.
UNC hosted the ACC Tournament for the third time in program history this season, defeating #6-seed Syracuse and #7-seed NC State before falling, 4-3, to top-seeded No. 4 Florida State in the ACC Championship. The conference tournament was previously held at Anderson Stadium in 2006 and 2012. UNC finished third at the tournament both times, going 2-2 in 2006 and 1-1 in 2012.
Pickett Headlines Four All-ACC Tar Heels
Brittany Pickett became the third Tar Heel to be named ACC Freshman of the Year, while also garnering All-ACC First Team and earning a place on the inaugural ACC All-Freshman Team. Kendra Lynch, Leah Murray and Taylor Wike each received All-ACC Second Team honors. A senior, Lynch picked up her second consecutive all conference honor, while Wike, a junior, has made All-ACC all three years.
Lynch, Pickett Finalists for National Awards
Kendra Lynch was named one of 34 finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, while Brittany Pickett was selected as a top-25 candidate and subsequently one of 11 finalists for Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year.
Lynch was the third Tar Heel to be named a finalist for the Division I Softball's highest honor, following Danielle Spaulding (2009, 2010) and Kristen Brown (2015), while Pickett is the second to make the Freshman of the Year list since the award's creation in 2014 (Taylor Wike, 2015) and the first to make the cut for top-10.
Lynch ranks third in the nation in total base and home runs and seventh in RBIs and is narrowing in on several career and single-season records, including breaking a 19-year-old record for total bases in a season. She was one of six ACC players to make the list of finalists, joining four Seminoles and Syracuse's Sydney O'Hara.
The ACC Freshman of the Year, Pickett was the only ACC player to make the Freshman of the Year top-25. She has been fantastic in the circle and at the plate, going 21-8 with a UNC-record six saves, while ranking fourth in the ACC with 12 home runs.
The National Freshman of the Year list will be further whittled down to three and the individual award winner will be announced on May 31 prior to the WCWS in Oklahoma City.
Carolina is among the best in the nation statistically, ranking 13th in the nation with 59 home runs, 18th with 99 stolen bases, 32nd in runs (293) and 34th in slugging percentage (.462) and double plays (23).
Individually, Kendra Lynch ranks third in the nation in total bases (141), a UNC record, and home runs (21), seventh in RBIs (65) and 19th in slugging percentage (.820). Additionally, she is one of 12 pitchers in the country to have pitched at least 70 innings and only hit a single batter.
Berlynne Delamora's patience at the plate has paid off, ranking 16th in the nation with a school-record 47 walks, while Brittany Pickett is third in the NCAA with six saves this season—also a UNC record—and 34th in victories. A top-10 finalist for National Freshman of the Year, Pickett has the second-most wins and ninth-most home runs among NCAA freshmen this season.
Leah Murray ranks 18th in the nation with 35 stolen bases and has been the 25th-most-difficult batter to strike out, with just six Ks over 186 at-bats.
Walk This Way
On April 23, Berlynne Delamora drew her 44th walk of the season, breaking UNC's all-time single-season record. The record of 42 (Natalie Anter, 2002) had stood for 13 years until Taylor Wike tied it as a freshman in 2015. Kristen Brown one-upped her teammate last season with 43 over 57 games, and Delamora broke that mark once again this year, with her 44th walk in just the 49th game of the season. Now with a total of 47, she ranks 16th in the nation, while her average of 0.82 per game (also a UNC record) ranks 22nd nationally.
Delamora proved to be the hardest out at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, reaching base safely in 12 consecutive plate appearances from Feb 18-22. The streak, which featured 10 walks and two singles, was the sixth-longest in NCAA history.
Delamora walked in all seven of her plate appearances on Saturday, Feb. 18, against Purdue and Ohio State, a streak bested by just eight players in NCAA history.
She then walked in six consecutive trips to the plate from March 8-10, which ties the 14th-longest streak in softball history.
Feel The Need For Speed
After breaking the all-time single-season record for stolen bases as a team in 2016, Carolina's baserunners haven't missed a beat. UNC stole 90 bases over 59 games in 1993. That record stood for 23 years until the 2016 Tar Heels overtook it, posting the first-ever 100-steal season with 102 swipes in 126 attempts over 57 games. The 2017 Tar Heels are just three steals shy of last season's record, with 99 steals in 123 attempts over 57 games.
UNC is second in the ACC and 18th in the nation in total steals, while its 1.74 steals per game are 24th in the NCAA. Three Heels rank in the top 10 in the ACC as individuals, with Leah Murray leading the conference with 35 on the year–fourth all time at UNC.
The 2016 Tar Heels were the first Carolina squad ever to have more than three Heels with 10-or-more stolen bases, as four players were in double digits including 25+ by Destiny DeBerry and Aquilla Mateen. The 2017 Heels have bested that feat once again, with five different Tar Heels in double digits. In addition to Murray, Taylor Wike has a career-high 18 and DeBerry has 16. Freshmen Hailey Cole and Micaela Abbatine round out the school-record five Heels in double digits with 12 and 10, respectively.
North Carolina has been extremely resilient all season long, erasing early deficits with big innings, especially in the fifth and seventh frames. Meanwhile, Carolina's defense has held firm, dropping just a single contest when leading after the fourth, fifth or sixth innings.
The magic began on Feb. 25, when Carolina trailed 6-0 heading into the fifth inning against Miami (Ohio). Carolina scored a run in the fifth and the sixth but still trailed, 7-2, in the seventh. The Heels led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and a double, and a two-run double by Kendra Lynch started the scoring. The Redhawks made a pitching change and got the second out of the inning, but UNC never gave in and the next four batters reached safely for a six-run bottom of the seventh, as UNC walked off with a bases-loaded walk by Taylor Wike, 8-7.
A three-run fifth inning broke a 1-1 tie to give UNC a 5-1 victory over No. 21 Pittsburgh in the series opener. Two days later, Carolina found itself down 7-1 in the middle of the fifth but rallied to plate six runs in the bottom of the fifth and walked off in the bottom of the ninth to complete the series sweep, 8-7.
A run in the top of the seventh broke a 2-2 tie at College of Charleston, then a five-run top of the fifth pushed UNC past Northern Kentucky the following day.
Virginia Tech scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead in game two, but UNC tied the score in the top of the seventh and won it, 4-3, in the eighth.
Carolina trailed 3-1 to Longwood in the bottom of the seventh, but a walk-off three-run homer by Lynch gave UNC a 5-3 victory.
The Heels used another big fifth inning to complete the sweep of Boston College, coming back from down 2-0 to score six runs in the fifth and secure an 8-3 win in the series finale.
UNC is 29-1 on the season when leading after six innings, but has come back to win nine games when tied or trailing after the fourth inning and six games when tied or trailing heading into the seventh.
Saving The Day
North Carolina's pitching staff has had each other's backs all season, teaming up in nearly every game. A single pitcher has gone the distance in just 20 games this season, with Kendra Lynch and Brittany Pickett the only individuals to throw a complete game.
The continued use of relief has helped keep the staff fresh through the grind of the NCAA softball season. Additionally, it has allowed for an increase in save opportunities. Pickett leads the ACC with 47 appearances but has made just 27 starts (seven of which turned into shutouts). 13 of Hannah Nommensen's 16 appearances came off the bench, while Sydney Matzko and Kellyn Daly have combined for 18 relief appearances.
Pickett's speed has helped her be extremely effective in relief, as the Tar Heel rookie broke UNC's record on March 14 with her fifth save of the season. Pickett extended the record with her sixth save at the ACC Tournament and currently ranks third in the nation. Matzko has come in for two saves and Nommensen picked up the save against UMass Lowell on Feb. 11. Lynch entered the UNCG game in a save situation, pitching the final two innings with a 2-0 lead to protect, but was awarded the win as the most-effective relief pitcher after Pickett only pitched two innings as the starter and thus was ineligible for the save.
UNC now has a program-record nine saves as a team, passing the previous record of eight from 2005. Three different Tar Heels posted at least one save for the fourth time in program history, a feat matched in 2006, 2005 and 2000.
Brittany Blanks Opponents
UNC has recorded eight shutout victories this season and Brittany Pickett has pitched in all eight of them. The rookie pitched compete-game shutouts over Purdue (Feb. 18) and NC State (March 24), then hurled a pair of three-hitters two days apart against USC Upstate (April 12) and Boston College (April 14).
She pitched the first six innings at ECU and first five against Chattanooga. Sydney Matzko went the first four innings against Campbell before Pickett earned the save with the final three. All five UNC pitchers combined for a 2-0 shutout of UNCG on March 29, with Pickett going the first two and Lynch earning the win after retiring six of the final seven batters.
Tar Heels Garner Five ACC Weekly Awards
Tar Heel catcher Katie Bailiff was named ACC Player of the Week on Feb. 21, after a fantastic week at the plate on Feb. 15-19. The sophomore hit .615 (8-13) with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs, slugging an impressive 1.385 over four starts. The Trinity, N.C., native came through when it mattered, hitting .875 (7-8) with runners in scoring position and .800 (4-5) with two outs, including a walk-off RBI double on Friday against Ohio State.
Senior pitcher/designated player Kendra Lynch earned the honor the following week on Feb. 28, after hitting .588 with a 1.118 slugging percentage over a 5-0 week at home. Lynch totaled 10 hits, three doubles, two home runs, five runs scored and 11 RBIs over five starts, while going 2-0 with a 1.43 ERA over 14.2 innings in the circle. In her best performance of the week, Lynch went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth while throwing 7.2 shutout innings against Towson in an extra-innings victory.
Lynch won her second Player of the Week award on March 14, when Brittany Pickett became the first of the year to earn ACC Pitcher of the Week. Lynch slugged 1.182 over seven games, with seven of her nine hits going for extra bases including five home runs. Pickett went 2-0 with two saves on the week, recording a perfect 0.00 ERA with 12 strikeouts and just two walks over 16.0 innings pitched.
Pickett earned ACC Pitcher of the Week once again on April 18 after going 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 20 strikeouts over wins against USC Upstate and Boston College. The rookie hurled two three-hit shutouts in three days to lead UNC to a 4-0 week.
Berlynne Delamora reached base safely in 29 straight games from Feb. 18-March 31. It was the second-longest reached base streak for Carolina since at least 2005.
Kristen Brown holds the record (since 2005), putting together a 54-game streak from the end of 2015 through the majority of 2016. She reached base safely in all-but-one game as a senior, including the first 51 games of the year.
Amber Parrish reached base successfully in the final 26 games of her career in 2015.
Taylor Wike is the only player (since 2005) to have reached base in 20-straight games more than once. The junior has done so in each of her first three seasons, reaching in 23-straight as a freshman (2015), 22-in-a-row as a sophomore, and saw her personal-best 25-game streak come to an end against UNCG on March 29, 2017.
Leah Murray became the fifth Tar Heel to join the 20-game streak club, reaching safely in exactly 20 games from March 8 to April 14, 2017, while Brittany Pickett reached in 21 consecutive games before being kept off the basepaths in the ACC Championship game.
Tar Heels Enjoy Best Start In History
North Carolina captured its 20th victory of the season on March 11, doing so in just the 25th game of the year to match the fastest UNC has ever reached the 20-win plateau. The Tar Heels opened the season 20-5 in six previous seasons, most recently doing so in 2015.
The win over VT on March 18 moved UNC to 24-5 on the year—the most wins in program history before taking a sixth loss. UNC's previous best came in 1987, Papa's second season, when the Heels started 23-5.
UNC captured its 30th win on April 2, doing so in just the 39th game of the year. Carolina reached the 30-win plateau faster just three times, starting 30-8 in 2007 and 30-7 in both 2008 and 2009.
Papa Captures 1,200th Career Victory
On March 3, 2017, North Carolina head coach Donna J. Papa became the 11th coach in NCAA softball history to capture 1,200 career wins, defeating No. 21 Pittsburgh, 5-1, in the first outing of a three-game sweep of the nationally-ranked Panthers.
Papa is the first ACC head coach to reach the milestone and did so in her 1,865th game as a head coach (.645). She ranks fifth in the nation among active DI coaches in career wins. The 10 previous 1,200 game winners are: Carol Hutchins, Mike Candrea, Margie Wright, Yvette Girouard, Eugene Lenti, Ralph Weekly, Diane Ninemire, Gayle Blevins, Jan Hutchinson and Gary Bryce.
Happy at Home
The Tar Heels were successful at Anderson Stadium this season, going 25-7 on their home turf. It is the 10th time in program history that UNC has captured at least 20 wins at home and the sixth time since Anderson Stadium opened in 2002. The Heels won 25 games at home for the third time ever and posted the second-most wins at Anderson Stadium, following UNC's record 29-4 season in 2009.