UNC softball drops final game of series against Louisville in 5-2 loss

The North Carolina softball team (20-20, 5-10 ACC) lost to Louisville (21-16, 5-7 ACC) on Sunday, 5-2, dropping the weekend series to the Cardinals.

What happened?

Freshman pitcher Lilli Backes got the go-ahead for the Tar Heels, and she had two quick outs against Carmyn Greenwood and Taylor Roby to start the game. Kendall Smith started the Cardinals offense with a double to right field, but Backes forced a popup to third base to end the first inning scoreless.

After a limited attack in the second frame for UNC, Backes continued to force weak ground balls and had a four-pitch punch on Ally Alexander to keep the game scoreless for two innings.

Louisville scored the first points of the game late in the third. After a single and a bunt put the runners on base, Smith picked the middle to tag Jenna Servi and advance Greenwood to third. Then a perfectly executed bunt from Korbe Otis tagged Greenwood to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, before two straight outs from Backes stopped the bleeding.

As UNC struggled to get things moving against Louisville ace Roby, the Cardinals continued to add to their lead in the fourth inning with a hard-hitting ball to the left-field fence from Greenwood, good for a triple RBI.

In the top of the fifth, the Tar Heels collected their first hit of the game with a slap single to right field from Abby Settlemyre. Settlemyre was lifted to second with a field single from Kiannah Pierce, but that’s where she would stay after two outs and a pitch left her on base. The bottom of the frame started with back-to-back doubles from Smith and Otis. Otis scored on a Dylann Cravens single, extending the Cardinals’ lead to five runs going into the second to last inning.

After UNC’s Skylar Brooks reached base on a pitched hit to start the sixth inning, she scored on a double to right center by Sara Jubas, who was tagged rounding second base in the play. Taylor Greene followed that up with a left double, and she was brought home by a line drive through the middle of Kianna Jones, making it a 5-2 game.

Who stood out?

Roby threw a gem for the Cardinals, not allowing a hit in four innings as the Tar Heels once again struggled to figure it out. Strong performances from the entire Cardinals batting roster supported Roby, even after UNC was able to put a few runs on the board late.

For the Tar Heels, Backes was effective through the early innings before the Louisville bats finally came to life. Jubas’ RBI double in the sixth inning gave UNC some momentum, but it was too little, too late.

When was it decided?

With three runs to make up for in the final inning, UNC took a tough break as Destiny Middleton lined up a straight to Roby for the first out. Leadoff batter Bri Stubbs worked to a full count, but clipped a ball to third base for the second out of the inning. Brooks reached base on a single to shortstop, but Jubas lined up to left field for the game finale.

Why is it important?

With Roby back in the circle for the Cardinals, the UNC batters faced an uphill battle in the series deciding game. The Tar Heels couldn’t get much early action like they could in Saturday’s win, and Louisville built a lead the Tar Heels couldn’t quite overcome.

With the series loss, the Tar Heels continue to sink in the ACC standings. Next weekend, UNC will play a tough home series against a ranked team from Florida State. In the meantime, they’ll try to right the ship with a midweek clash against Campbell.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will play a midweek game against the Campbell Fighting Camels on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.

@LucasThomae

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