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CHAPEL HILL – A season-high eight walks issued over the first three innings spotted Winthrop an early 4-0 lead, and Carolina’s comeback fell short, as the Tar Heels dropped a midweek matchup with the Eagles, 8-7, on Wednesday night. Brittany Pickett and Kendra Lynch both went deep for three-run home runs, but defensive miscues gave WU the one-run victory. With the win Winthrop improves to 22-25, while UNC falls to 35-12.
“There were a lot of things that didn’t go well tonight,” said head coach Donna J. Papa, “and we still only wound up losing by a run. We have a good team. One game doesn’t make us or break us. A lot of things that happened today were atypical, so I’m going to call it what it is and move past it.
“We can’t dwell on it. We have a big series coming up this weekend. I would have liked to have seen us perform better before we go up to Syracuse—we’re a better hitting team than that. I did not expect this outcome today.”
Senior Kendra Lynch went 2-for-3 with a walk, a home run and four RBIs. Her performance moved her up the charts in several offensive categories. She jumped past Michelle Semmes (1998-01) into third all time at UNC in career total bases (357). Her four runs batted in vaulted her into second place in single-season RBIs (59), sitting eight behind Kristen Brown’s record of 67 from 2015. Additionally, she is now tied for third with her 18th home run this season and moved into a tie for ninth in ACC history with her 49th career long ball.
Sophomore Leah Murray was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run, and Brittany Pickett put UNC on the board with a three-run homer in the fourth. Taylor Wike had UNC’s only other hit of the game, singling and scoring in the bottom of the seventh.
Carolina had to use all five of its pitchers in the game after the Heels struggled with control early. It was the third time this season that UNC used its full pitching staff, but the first time the quintet combined for a loss. Sydney Matzko (3-5) got the start, but retired just one of the five batters she faced (a strikeout), issuing three walks and a single and walking in the first run of the game. Kellyn Daly got UNC out of the first inning, but ended up allowing three runs, two earned, on one hit and four walks with two strikeouts over two innings. Hannah Nommensen went the next two innings, allowing a run on one hit and one walk with a strikeout. All three Tar Heels issued a bases-loaded walk to account for three of the first four runs in the game.
Lynch entered in the fifth and started strong, but went on to surrender three runs, two earned, on six hits with a strikeout. Pickett took over in the seventh and retired both batters she faced, but allowed an inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly.
Keleigh Romine held Carolina without a hit through the first three innings, but left with two outs in the fourth after giving up three runs on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts. Kiley Majette (13-13) earned the win with 3.1 innings of relief, despite allowing four runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.
Leah Young led the Eagles at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a bases-loaded walk, a double, a home run and two runs scored.
Matzko struggled with control in the top of the first, surrendering a hit and three walks to the first five batters of the game, walking in a run. Daly took over with the bases loaded and one out and took care of business, shutting down the Eagles with a ground out and a strikeout to strand three and keep Winthrop from a big inning.
Bailiff threw out the only baserunner of the second inning stealing second, but in a near repeat of the first inning, Daly allowed an infield single and three walks to give the Eagles another free run. Nommensen took over with the bases loaded and one out. A third run scored on a misplayed ground ball up the middle, and another bases-loaded walk made it 4-0.
Lynch walked with one out in the fourth, and pinch runner Brittany West caught the pitcher out of the circle for a delayed steal. Murray got UNC’s first hit of the game for a bunt single, then Pickett made it a one-run game by crushing her 10th home run of the season off the Williams Field sign in right center.
Leah Young followed suit with a solo home run in the fifth. UNC went to the bullpen once again to bring in Lynch, who retired the next two batters to finish out the inning.
An error by Delamora on a hard-hit ball allowed an unearned run to score in the top of the sixth, as Winthrop pulled back ahead by two, 6-4.
A leadoff double in the top of the seventh started a hit parade for Winthrop, as three straight singles, including an RBI hit to center by Majette, led to another call to the bullpen. Pickett allowed a sacrifice fly to make it 8-4 before retiring Maddie Antone to strand two.
Carolina did not back down, as Wike led off the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle. Shifflett was hit by ball four, then Delamora hit a ball hard up the middle. Majette knocked it down and shortstop Maddie Antone hustled to get the deflection, beating Delamora to first by a hair for the first out. Lynch stepped up to the plate and drilled a three-run blast to center field to cut the deficit to one, but Majette retired the next two batters to hold on for the win, 8-7.
North Carolina hits the road this weekend for an ACC series at Syracuse on April 21-23. The Tar Heels open the three-game series on Friday, April 21, at 4 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. start on Saturday and a Noon first pitch on Sunday. Friday and Sunday’s games will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.