A common issue during conference play for Boston College softball has been allowing one big inning from its opponent. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Eagles had allowed at least three runs in an inning in three of their five ACC games, including the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against North Carolina.
BC’s series finale with the Tar Heels on Sunday followed that trend, and a single inning haunted the Eagles once again.
Plagued by sloppy mistakes, BC (16–13, 1–5 Atlantic Coast) fell to the Tar Heels (13–21, 3–6) 8–3 Sunday afternoon at Harrington Athletics Village. North Carolina scored six runs all with two outs in a pivotal sixth inning to cruise ahead of the Eagles late.
“These innings where we’re giving up runs with two outs and making mistakes—we’ve just got to shut it down,” BC head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “We’re right there. We just didn’t execute today.”
BC jumped out to an early lead in the first inning when Nicole Giery lined a one-out single to center to drive in Maddy Carpe. Giery was an on-base machine for the Eagles all game, reaching base safely in all four of her plate appearances.
BC’s starting pitcher Abby Dunning cruised through the first three innings, allowing just one baserunner and racking up six strikeouts.
The Eagles continued to give Dunning run support when Hannah Slike launched a two-run home run over the left field fence in the bottom half of the third inning. Slike blasted the first pitch she saw from Kenna Raye Dark for her sixth home run of the season.
Dunning ran into some trouble in the fourth inning when the first two Tar Heels singled. Alex Brown and Skyler Brooks each drove in a run in the frame, and North Carolina threatened further with runners on first and third with two outs, but Dunning recorded a big punch-out to end the inning.
“Abby Dunning did a great job this series,” Kvilhaug said. “I think we got all that we could have gotten from Abby Dunning in a positive light.”
Leading 3–2, the Eagles had several opportunities to increase their lead in the fourth and fifth innings. With a runner on third and one out in the fourth, Slike hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, and Carpe broke for home where she was tagged out.
The Eagles’ struggles with runners in scoring position continued in the fifth inning when they stranded runners on first and third after Zoe Hines struck out and Meghan Schouten popped out to second. BC was 2 of 8 with runners in scoring position during the game.
“We have had a lot of missed opportunities this season,” Kvilhaug said. “I mean, the great news is that we’re getting the opportunities, we’re getting ourselves in a position, but we have just got to do a better job of executing in those situations.”
North Carolina’s sixth-inning rally began when Brown and Brooks each singled with one out. Kvilhaug then pulled Dunning in favor of Susannah Anderson. And the first batter that Anderson faced, Kiersten Licea, poked a ball through the right side to load the bases.
Anderson forced a ground ball from the next batter, and the Eagles got the force out at home to record the second out of the inning. It appeared like BC was going to escape the jam unscathed when pinch hitter Gaby Katz grounded a ball to third, but BC third baseman Abigail Knight couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly and the Tar Heels knotted the score at 3–3.
Knight’s error was compounded by a walk from the next batter, followed by a two-run double off the bat of Bri Stubbs. Abby Settlemyre joined the party with a two-run single to cap off the six-run outburst.
“We needed to shut the door,” Kvilhaug said. “We allowed the floodgates to kind of open up and a lot of mistakes just continued to spiral after that [error].”
The Eagles failed to rally in their half of the sixth inning, going down in order. They went down quietly in the seventh, too, as Lilli Backes put the finishing touches on her strong pitching performance. Backes pitched 4.2 innings total and did not allow a single earned run.
“[Backes] had a nice changeup, and she was going up out of the zone with some kind of rising curveball, and I think that we were swinging at bad pitches,” Kvilhaug said of the struggles at the plate.