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With the game tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning, Kianna Jones walked on a full count to load the bases for North Carolina. Alex Brown came up to bat next with one out as Lindsey Hendrix attempted to keep the game tied.
The count reached 2-2 before Hendrix forced Brown to pop out on a shallow foul ball near Syracuse’s dugout. Rebecca Clyde ran over and made the catch, and the Orange were one out away from escaping the jam.
The Tar Heels sent Kiersten Licea to the plate to pinch hit for Abby Settlemyre, who punched a line drive to center field, but Angel Jasso was there to make the catch and end the inning.
Aside from the sixth inning, UNC struggled to put pressure on Hendrix over the course of the game as the sophomore turned in one of her best Atlantic Coast Conference performances of the season. She tossed a complete game, allowing only one unearned run and striking out five batters en route to Syracuse’s (23-20, 5-15 ACC) 3-1 victory over UNC (23-26, 6-16 ACC) on Friday afternoon.
Hendrix picked up her eighth win of the season in her third complete game. The only other time she went the distance in conference play came against Pittsburgh on April 2, when she struck out a career-high 12 batters and allowed only two hits in the win.
Syracuse’s run support came solely from the long ball, with Jasso and Neli Casares-Maher hitting multiple home runs in the Orange’s second game of conference play. Jasso’s home run, which tied the game in the fourth inning, was Syracuse’s first home run of the season against an ACC opponent at Skytop.
Fielding mishaps allowed the Tar Heels to strike first, as an error by Kelly Breen followed by a poorly executed rundown one batter later put UNC up 1-0. After Kiannah Pierce had reached base on the error the prior at-bat, she was caught between first and second base following an unsuccessful attempt by Carli Campbell to throw Destiny Middleton out at third when she tagged up on a flyout. But, Syracuse was unable to chase Pierce down and she returned to first safely. While the Orange were focused on Pierce, Middleton crossed home safely.
UNC’s lead didn’t last long, as Jasso launched the first pitch she saw over the right field fence to lead off the fourth inning. It was the Orange’s first hit of the game as UNC pitcher Hannah George hadn’t even allowed a baserunner up to that point. Syracuse’s entire team gathered around Jasso after she stepped on home plate.
Cranked that to tie us up @jassoangel11
B4| Syracuse 1, North Carolina 1 pic.twitter.com/hnOXXCWjco
— Syracuse Softball (@CuseSB) May 6, 2022
The team’s hitting and pitching have swung between showing promise and warranting concern throughout the season. The Orange finding success in both areas simultaneously is key for them to string together wins against conference opponents.
“You see the outcome,” Jasso said of what happens when Syracuse’s hitting and pitching perform in unison. “Once we have both sides going, then it’s going to pay off and (allow the team to) come out with the win.”
After Hendrix escaped the sixth-inning jam, the Orange still needed to find a way to break the tie. Campbell led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single, using her speed to beat the throw from Brown. Jasso then hit into a fielder’s choice where an out was forced at second, but an errant throw to first allowed her to move into scoring position anyway.
A single most likely would have given Syracuse the lead, but Casares-Maher crushed George’s second pitch of the at-bat to dead center field and over the fence to put the Orange up 3-1. The crowd erupted and the Orange huddled near home plate once again, celebrating on their way back to the dugout.
Tessa Galipeau worked a walk and Breen ripped a double into the left center field gap, giving Syracuse runners on second and third with one out and an opportunity to add onto the lead. They couldn’t convert, as Angie Ramos and Laila Alves were retired to end the inning, and Hendrix came out for the seventh looking to secure the victory with a two-run cushion.
After Skyler Brooks grounded out, Hendrix hit the next two batters, putting the tying run on base for the Tar Heels and leading to two mound meetings for the Orange. Casares-Maher flashed the leather with a backhanded stop at shortstop before firing to second for the second out of the inning. Then, Middleton popped out behind third base to end the game.
The win clinched a winning regular season record for Syracuse, as it moved to three games over .500 with two games remaining. The series between SU and UNC will continue Saturday at 1 p.m. before wrapping up on Sunday at noon.
The post Pitching, power hitting lead Syracuse to victory over UNC appeared first on The Daily Orange.