The NC State softball team rallied late, but could not overcome a tough first inning and dropped an 8-4 decision against North Carolina Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship.
Trailing late in the contest, the Wolfpack rallied with four runs to trim the deficit. Senior Chelsea Tate was hit-by-pitch to start the fifth inning and junior Sara Lippard followed with a single to left field. Sophomore Lana Van Dyken's single loaded the bases for Renada Davis. The junior shortstop ripped a two-RBI double to deep left field as the Pack narrowed the UNC lead to 7-2.
Senior Leah Jones pulled the Pack to within three following her seventh home run of the season, a two-run shot to left center to make the score 7-4. Sophomore Hanna Sommer was hit-by-pitch prior to Jones’ at-bat.
The Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead in the contest after plating five runs in the first inning after a couple singles and a grand slam by Kendra Lynch. UNC added two more runs in the top of the third and another in the top of the seventh following homers by Jenna Kelly and Amber Parrish.
Because I did not see the telecast, I do not know if the analyst touched on the possibility that Em, who gave up five runs including a grand-slam in the first and a two-run homer in the third, might have not been at her best due to injury. I noted an ankle brace on her left foot and also noticed that the trainer had her shoe off working on her big toe before the game. If not in good health giving up seven runs in three innings might be expected. However, if Em had handled a one out bunt and not thrown wildly to first, and if Van Dyken had caught the hard hit line drive following the bunt, State would have gotten out of the first inning without giving up any runs.
Being a good State fan, I am going to take some heat for Renada Davis's over agressive play today. In talking with her before the game, I asked her to hit two or three home runs. Today she struck out swinging at an out of the strike zone very high fast ball in her first two at bats. She did hit a ball off of the wall scoring two runs in the fifth, but hurt the team by getting caught in a run down in the same inning when the runner on third did not advance toward home on a long fly to the outfield. Davis should have been aware that the runner at third held instead of trying to score on the fly out. In the bottom of the seventh, Davis tried to go from first to third on a base hit by Grant, getting thrown out at third for the second out. When trailing by four, it is not wise to make the second out trying to take third. In all fairness, a man with good knowledge of softball, said the UNC third baseman illegally blocked the bag; however, Coach Rychchik's argument was to no avail.
Mirabella releived Em and gave up only a home run in the top of the 7th.
During the day, I had a chance to thank Coach Rychcik for his work with the program and his concept of the long ball. As we know "dudes dig the long ball".
I had an opportunity to talk with the parents of five-eight freshman infielder Molly Martin from Mt. Airy, North Carolina. While Molly only had a chance to be a substitute runner in today's game, I did get a chance to watch her take infield and did note that she has a great arm and good fielding techniques. Hopefully in the near future, she will get a lot of playing time and contribute significantly to the success of the program.
Before the game, the State team sat in the bleachers near me enabling me to see what a great group of student athletes they are especially Omega's favorite, Tate. I am really impressed with the athletic ability of the young women who play college softball. They can really motor and have outstanding arms. They definitely don't throw "like a girl", John Wall (yes that John Wall), or President Obama each of which looked embarrassingly awful in throwing out a first pitch for the Nats.
With today's loss State will not repeat as ACC Champs, but with an RPI of 30 as of May 5th, an invitation to the NCAA tournament should be forth coming.