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Leading 4-0 against UNC with two outs in the bottom of the third, graduate student Paris Woods knew the Orange had to beat the Tar Heels for the team to clinch an ACC Tournament berth, allowing her to play another college softball game. She had an opportunity with the bases loaded when she settled in the batter’s box.
Woods watched a pitch at her shins for ball one, but then made good contact on a late swing for a foul ball. Then, North Carolina pitcher Hannah George delivered a high and away pitch, painting the corner of the strike zone.
As if Woods knew it was coming, she slapped the ball just over the right fielder Kianna Jones’ head. It landed in the warning track and three runs crossed the plate as Woods arrived at third base for a triple.
“I think a lot of our hitting was timing. We worked a lot on timing this week, a lot of barrel control,” Woods said. “Obviously, Hannah George has some speed so that was easy. As long as you get the barrel on the ball it will go.”
Syracuse’s (25-20, 7-15 Atlantic Coast) power at the plate propelled them to a 9-1 mercy rule victory over North Carolina (23-28, 6-18 ACC). This concluded a Mother’s Day weekend sweep of the Tar Heels as the Orange bested them 3-1 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday.
Almost a third of Syracuse’s hits on Sunday were triples or home runs. This became apparent early in the second inning. Carli Campbell got to first after a dropped ball and then a perfectly placed bunt by Laila Alves had both runners safe on the corners of the basepath. Then, Rebecca Clyde and Woods hit whistling line drives into the outfield right after each other. Clyde’s sent Campbell home to put the game at 2-0.
UNC caught Clyde leading off the bag, but Woods was on first when Angel Jasso stepped up to the plate. She passed on a low and away pitch after chipping a ball foul towards the top of the third base dug out.
But Jasso gave the next pitch a ride right over centerfielder Bri Stubbs’ head. Stubbs chased after it and threw it in, but another player fumbled the ball, allowing Jasso to make it to third and Woods to score. The Orange now led 3-0.
Following Woods’ triple in the third and a Jasso single after that, the Orange led 8-0. But Licea hit a solo shot over the left field scoreboard off of Ariana Adams in the top of the fourth to avoid the mercy rule.
Syracuse maintained that 8-1 lead going into the sixth inning. Lindsey Hendrix filled in nicely for Adams and quickly retired the side. The Orange remained just one run away from mercying the Tar Heels.
Jasso led off the inning with a chance to be the ACC Tournament clinching run. She put the barrel on the ball on the first pitch, but just for a towering foul way left of in bounds. North Carolina freshman Carlie Myrtle then wound up for an off speed pitch in the center of the plate.
Jasso wasn’t fooled and turned on it with expert timing. It sailed straight down center field and just barely over the fence. Jasso jumped up and down as her screaming team huddled at home plate while the crowd cheered. Going 2-for-2 with a triple, Woods said she performed the best at the most important time.
“It was a great day for me,” Woods said. “I knew it could be my last, so I was just gonna leave it all out there and have some fun with it.”