2017 In Review
Despite fielding a team of 12 freshmen and returning just seven letterwinners from 2016, North Carolina put together an impressive 2017 campaign, going 40-21 and finishing tied for third in the ACC at 14-9. For the first time in program history, the Tar Heels reached the ACC Championship and the NCAA Regional Final in the same season. UNC captured four wins over ranked opponents (NFCA Poll), the third-most in school history.
Statistically speaking, UNC set a new single-season record for stolen bases for the second consecutive season, swiping 106 bases to rank 16th in the nation. The Tar Heel pitching staff recorded a school-record nine saves, led by a record six by freshman Brittany Pickett, which ranked third in the NCAA. The Carolina defense matched its record with 24 double plays turned, good for 31st in the country.
Individually, Kendra Lynch set single-season records for RBIs (68) and total bases (144), ranking top 10 in the nation in both categories as well as home runs (21). The Second-Team All-American finished her career ranked second all time at UNC in slugging percentage (.644), home runs (52) and RBIs (168), as well as third in total bases (378), seventh in walks (81) and 10th in strikeouts (280).
The ACC Freshman of the Year and a top-10 finalist for NFCA National Freshman of the Year, Brittany Pickett ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in 13 pitching and five offensive categories. The rookie finished among the top 10 all time among UNC freshmen in eight offensive and 12 defensive categories, breaking the rookie record for appearances, tying the home run record, ranking second in batters faced and walks, and third in on-base percentage, wins, starts and innings.
Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament
The Tar Heels earned a bid to the 2017 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.
After dropping the opening game to No. 22 Arizona State, 9-3, on Friday night, Carolina returned to the field on Saturday facing elimination. UNC took down Southern Illinois, 4-0, behind a three-hit shutout from Brittany Pickett, then exacted revenge on the Sun Devils in the nightcap. Kellyn Daly picked up her first career victory in her first-ever complete-game effort, leading UNC past ASU, 3-2, to knock out the Sun Devils and advance to the Regional Final.
UNC took an early 2-0 lead over the host #12 Ole Miss, but the Rebels scored five unanswered runs over the final two innings to punch a ticket to their first-ever Super Regionals, ending UNC's season at 40-21.
Carolina is now 17-28 all time in the NCAA Tournament after going 2-2 at the 2017 Oxford Regional. The Tar Heels reached the Regional Final game for the fifth time (2005, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2017), but have never advanced to Super Regionals.
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 this season for the third time in program history, 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.
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 bested that mark once again, swiping a total of 106 bases in 130 attempts over 61 games.
UNC finished second in the ACC and 16th in the nation in total steals, while its 1.74 steals per game rank 20th in the NCAA. Three Heels rank in the top 10 in the ACC as individuals, with Leah Murray leading the conference with 38 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 upped the ante again, with five different Tar Heels in double digits. In addition to Murray, Destiny DeBerry swiped 19 and Taylor Wike had a career-high 18. Freshmen Hailey Cole and Micaela Abbatine round out the school-record five Heels in double digits with 13 and 10, respectively.
Carolina was among the best in the nation statistically, ranking 17th in the nation with 59 home runs, 16th with 106 stolen bases, 33rd in runs (305) and 31st in double plays (24).
Individually, Kendra Lynch ranked fourth in the nation in total bases (144), sixth in home runs (21) and 10th in RBIs (68) ). Additionally, she was one of nine pitchers in the country to have pitched at least 90 innings and only hit a single batter.
Berlynne Delamora's patience at the plate paid off, ranking 15th in the nation with a school-record 49 walks, while Brittany Pickett was third in the NCAA with six saves this season—also a UNC record—and 36th in victories. The top-10 finalist for National Freshman of the Year, Pickett had the third-most wins, ninth-most home runs and 10th-most strikeouts among NCAA freshmen on the season.
Leah Murray ranked 15th in the nation with 38 stolen bases and was been the 19th-most-difficult batter to strike out, with just six Ks over 200 at-bats.
Lynch In the ACC Career Rankings
Kendra Lynch finished her prolific career among the best hitters in ACC history.
1. 228 - Whitney Haller, GT, 2006-09
2. 216 - Maddie O'Brien, FSU, 2012-15
3. 204 - Kristen Brown, UNC, 2013-16
4. 203 - Jessica Warren, FSU, 2015-
5. 201 - Kelsi Weseman, GT, 2009-12
6. 194 - Savannah Brown, GT, 2005-08
7. 181 - Sara Larquier, VA, 2003-06
8. 174 - Tatiana Cortez, BC, 2014-17
9. 172 - Anne Knobbe, GT, 1997-00
10. 171 - Alex Powers, FSU, 2014-17
11. 168 - Kendra Lynch, UNC, 2014-17
1. 66 - Kristen Brown, UNC, 2013-16
2. 65 - Renada Davis, NCSU, 2012-15
3. 62 - Jessica Warren, FSU, 2015-
4. 61 - Whitney Haller, GT, 2006-09
5. 60 - Hope Rush, GT, 2010-13
6. 55 - Maddie O'Brien, FSU, 2012-15
55 - Kelsi Weserman, GT, 2009-12
8. 54 - Jen Yee, GT, 2007, 09-10*
9. 52 - Kendra Lynch, UNC, 2014-17
10. 49 - Jen Chamberlin, NCSU, 2004-07
Slugging Pct. (Min. 300 AB)
1. .814 - Jen Yee, GT, 2007, 09-10*
2. .814 - Jessica Warren, FSU, 2015-
3. .763 - Kelsi Weseman, GT, 2009-12
4. .762 - Emilee Koerner, ND, 2013-15*
5. .714 - Kristen Brown, UNC, 2013-16
6. .706 - Renada Davis, NCSU, 2012-15
7. .667 - Giorgiana Zeremenko, PITT, 2015-
8. .660 - Micaela Arizmendi, ND, 2013-16
9. .651 - Whitney Haller, GT, 2006-09
10. .645 - Maddie O'Brien, FSU, 2012-15
11. .644 - Kendra Lynch, UNC, 2014-17
12. .636 - Alysha Rudnik, GT, 2011-14
* Only includes seasons as ACC member
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. Delamora finished 2017 with a total of 49, ranking 15th in the nation, while her average of 0.80 per game (also a UNC record) ranked 23rd 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.
Happy at Home
The Tar Heels were successful at Anderson Stadium this season, going 25-7 on their home turf. It was the 10th time in program history that UNC 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.
Saving The Day
North Carolina's pitching staff had each other's backs all season, teaming up in nearly every game. A single pitcher went the distance in just 22 of 61 games, with Brittany Pickett accounting for 18 of the complete games.
The continued use of relief helped keep the staff fresh through the grind of the NCAA softball season. Additionally, it allowed for an increase in save opportunities. Pickett led the ACC with 50 appearances but made just 30 starts (eight of which turned into shutouts). Thirteen of Hannah Nommensen's 16 appearances came off the bench, while Sydney Matzko and Kellyn Daly combined for 20 relief appearances.
Pickett's speed helped her to 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 ranking third in the nation. Matzko came 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 totaled 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 recorded nine shutout victories on the season and Brittany Pickett pitched in all nine 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 then twirled another three-hit shutout, her fifth scoreless CG of the year, against Southern Illinois at NCAA Regionals.
Pickett 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.
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.
2017 Award Winners
Lynch Finishes Career an All-American
Senior power hitter Kendra Lynch was named NFCA Second-Team All-America, becoming the 10th Tar Heel in program history to earn All-America honors from the coaches' association. Carolina's primary designated player in 2017, Lynch hit .374 with 68 hits, 13 doubles, 21 home runs, 68 RBIs and 144 total bases, while slugging .791. She set single-season records for RBIs and total bases and ranked in the top 10 in the nation in home runs, RBIs and TB. A Finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, she was also named to the Fastpitch News All-America First Team for her offensive production.
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. Lynch picked up her second consecutive all-conference honor, while Wike, a junior, has made All-ACC all three years.
Lynch, Pickett Named 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. 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. A Second-Team All-Region selection, she was fantastic in the circle and at the plate, going 22-10 with a UNC-record six saves, while ranking fourth in the ACC with 12 home runs.
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 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.
North Carolina was extremely resilient all season long, erasing early deficits with big innings, especially in the fifth and seventh frames. Meanwhile, Carolina's defense 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 went 33-1 on the season when leading after six innings, but came back to win nine games when tied or trailing after the fourth inning and six games when tied or trailing heading into the seventh.
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.
Tar Heels Sweep #21 Pitt in ACC Opener
For the first time in program history, North Carolina swept a three-game series with a ranked opponent, defeating No. 21 Pittsburgh, 5-1, 6-2, and 8-7, in the 2017 ACC season opener on March 3-5.
UNC's only previous sweep of a ranked ACC opponent came back on April 11, 1996, when the Tar Heels took down No. 17 Florida State 3-2 and 5-4 (13 inn.) in a conference doubleheader. The ACC began the current three-game series format with the conference expansion in 2005.
The weekend sweep marked the second time in school history that UNC won three consecutive ranked games, having defeated No. 17 Florida State on April 8, 2001, then topping the No. 16 Seminoles on back-to-back days in the ACC Tournament on May 12-13 en route to the Tar Heels' first-ever ACC Tournament title.
Carolina had previously won three-game series against ranked ACC teams three times since the conference began its three-game series in 2005, most recently taking 2-of-3 from No. 18 Notre Dame on April 24-25, 2016.
Tar Heels Go On 11-Game Winning Streak
After starting the season, 0-3, UNC went on to win 24 of the next 26 games including an 11-game winning streak from Feb. 18 to March 7. The streak came to an end on March 8 in a 6-3 loss at UNCG.
During the 11-game winning streak, UNC batted .354 with a .437 on-base percentage and a .601 slugging percentage. The Tar Heels hit 22 doubles, a triple and 18 home runs, with Katie Bailiff and Kendra Lynch both batting above .525 and slugging over 1.000.
The 11-game streak was UNC's 16th double-digit winning streak in program history and 15th under Coach Papa. UNC last won 10 games in a row from Feb. 20 - March 8, 2015, before falling to USC Upstate, 9-4, on March 10.
Carolina has posted two 20-plus winning streaks in school history, winning a school-record 28-straight games in 2007 and winning 23 in a row in 2009.
ACC Wins Second ACC/Big Ten Challenge
North Carolina played host to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Feb. 17-19, one of four ACC members to host the second annual interleague showdown. After dropping the inaugural challenge, 20-12, the ACC won the bragging rights this season, winning the 16-team tournament, 19-13. North Carolina's 10-1 defeat of Purdue clinched the win for the ACC as the 17th victory of the weekend.
UNC went 3-1 on the weekend, defeating Purdue 5-0 and 10-1 (5), and splitting with Ohio State 8-7 and 2-10 (6). North Carolina led the Chapel Hill site in batting average, hitting .367 with 13 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 stolen bases over the four games.
Tar Heels Win Border Battle With SC
UNC used consistent hitting and composure in the circle to defeat South Carolina, 7-3, on Feb. 22. In the annual “Battle of the Carolinas,” pitchers Brittany Pickett and Sydney Matzko held the Gamecocks without an RBI win 10 opportunities with runners in scoring position, while UNC scored in four different innings to defeat USC. Reigning ACC Player of the Week Katie Bailiff drove in the first three runs of the game with an RBI double and a two-run single, and Katelyn Shifflett belted her first career home run in the fifth—on her 21st birthday—to seal the win for the Tar Heels.
Heels Sweep Carolina Classic
The Tar Heels have picked up momentum since returning home, sweeping through the annual Carolina Classic with wins over Towson, Miami (Ohio), Marshall and Hampton. UNC displayed tremendous resilience, picking up walk-off wins in the first two games.
UNC entered the seventh inning leading 4-1 over Towson but gave up four runs in the top half to enter the bottom of the seventh down by one. Berlynne Delamora quickly tied the score with a leadoff home run to send the game into extras. Kendra Lynch tossed a pair of perfect innings, then led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, and Hailey Cole drove her home with sac fly to give UNC the 6-5 win.
The excitement continued the followed afternoon as Carolina entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 7-2 to Miami (Ohio). The Tar Heels never gave in, scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by a bases-loaded walk by Taylor Wike to stun the Redhawks and claim their second straight walk-off victory, 8-7.
The Tar Heels hit .364 with an impressive .605 slugging percentage on the weekend, led by Brittany Pickett (.615) and Kendra Lynch (.571). Lynch (1.143) and Katie Bailiff (1.122) both slugged over 1.000, combining for four home runs and five doubles. Lynch and Hannah Nommensen got the job done in the circle, each going 2-0 with sub-2.00 ERAs.
UNC Sweeps Holy City Showdown
North Carolina swept it second consecutive nonconference tournament on March 10-12, going a perfect 5-0 at the Holy City Showdown hosted by College of Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. The Tar Heels shutout Chattanooga, 8-0, then used a run in the top of the seventh to defeat the host Cougars, 3-2, in opening day. Carolina's defense allowed just two runs on Saturday, defeating UMass Lowell 3-1 and Northern Kentucky, 8-1, thTheen scored in five of six innings against Robert Morris to complete the perfect weekend, 10-3.
Taylor Wike led UNC at the plate on the weekend, hitting .500 with a .786 slugging percentage, seven runs, five RBIs and five stolen bases. Kendra Lynch drove in a team-best seven runs, slugging 1.000 with three home runs, while Carolina's baserunners stole a total of 18 bases as compared to just three allowed by opponents.
All five UNC pitchers got in on the action, combining for an 0.80 ERA, allowing just four earned runs (seven total) over 35 innings. Three of UNC's five pitchers posted a perfect 0.00 ERA, including freshman Brittany Pickett who went 2-0 with a save and 10 strikeouts over 10.2 innings pitched.