Sports, Spring, Softball

Eagles Manage Lone Run in Three-Game Sweep at the Hands of North Carolina

Boston College softball’s final push of a 21-game road swing took the Eagles on their first conference series of the year, a three-game set with North Carolina to open up their ACC schedule. In their recent spring break road trip, the Eagles strung together their first winning streak, knocking off Tennessee-Chattanooga and Pennsylvania before rounding out the excursion with a decisive victory over Florida International. Despite an inconsistent start to the season, BC hoped to feed off its recently acquired momentum and establish an early presence in the conference table. Those goals fell short in Chapel Hill, though, as the Eagles struggled to find their footing offensively and were swept by a receiving votes Tar Heels team.

This offensive drought was most evident in the final game on Sunday, where UNC (15-9, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) completed its series sweep by shutting out BC, 8-0. Tar Heels senior Kiani Ramsey tripled in a run to put the hosts on the board early, helping her team gain confidence from the outset. Kristina Burkhardt singled at the bottom of the first, but the Eagles turned a double play to end the inning and maintain a hand in the game. They would gradually fall behind, though, as Megan Dray launched a home run in the bottom of the second after BC left a runner in scoring position the inning prior.

UNC pulled away when Abby Settlemyer singled and two runs scored on an error to hoist the Tar Heels to a 4-0 lead. Lexi Godwin singled soon after to put UNC out of striking distance. When freshman Camryn Dolby replaced C.C. Cook on the mound, the Eagles ran into even more trouble keeping the Tar Heels at bay. In the fourth inning, Burkhardt crushed a three-run home run to pick up the 8-0 lead and secure a run-rule victory.

Susannah Anderson kept the Tar Heel offense in check in the second game of the series, but the Eagles found it difficult to get runs against her counterpart, UNC freshman Hannah George. She went five innings and teammate Brittany Pickett spun two scoreless frames in relief for the save in a 2-0 win. Despite scoring early in the first inning, the Tar Heels found it difficult to find any offensive rhythm with Anderson on the mound. Going six innings, Anderson scattered six hits, walked three, and conceded just two runs to open up opportunities for the Eagles lineup.

BC began the third with a single from Kennedy Labshere, but the offense stalled, as George got struck out the next three batters. Ramsey looked to widen the lead when she hit a double to start the fifth, making it all the way to third, where Anderson resolved to hold her. She was able too, ending the threat as the final batter in Dray popped out to short.

It appeared as if the Eagles were in position to tie the game late when Lexi DiEmmanuele opened up the sixth with a leadoff single. Emme Martinez subsequently singled to the right, but UNC’s right fielder Kristina Burkhardt threw out DiEmmanuele en route to third. The Tar Heels ultimately escaped the inning with two groundouts, then set down the side in the seventh  2-0 victory.

In the first game at Anderson Stadium, the Eagles found it difficult to cross the plate—and their hosts didn’t have the same problem in a 9-1 rout. The lone hit for BC came in the third inning with a home run from sophomore Emme Martinez, her second of the season, and it proved to be Pickett’s only mistake of the day—she struck out eight and only walked one. That couldn’t be said about Anderson, who continued her up and down season as she ran into difficulties on the mound, giving up three runs to the Tar Heels—including two earned in the first two innings.

In response to a sacrifice bunt that brought in UNC’s third run, BC shifted pitchers, but the moved proved fruitless against the Tar Heels’ strengthening batting game. Dolby struggled mightily in relief, coughing up six earned runs in just two innings. Burkardt went 2-for-2 with an RBI, while Ramsey drove in another three. Cook conceded a hit up the middle to score the ninth run and end the game in five innings, as the Tar Heels improved 3-1 in the ACC.

If the Eagles hope to make noise in the conference, they will have to find a way to steal wins when their pitching keeps them in games. UNC is second in the conference standings right now, so a sweep is understandable, but the second game is one that head coach Ashley Obrest surely wanted her team to come away with. Last season, BC started conference play with a winless weekend in Durham, N.C., against Duke—but it rebounded by sweeping Virginia upon its return home. They’ll have a similar chance to bounce back with back-to-back midweek games against non-conference opponents in Quinnipiac and Providence, two teams that have posted a combined 16-24 record thus far.

March 17, 2019