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Angel Jasso stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Already up 8-1, Syracuse needed just three more defensive outs to sweep North Carolina and clinch an ACC Tournament berth.
But they wouldn’t even need to make those defensive outs. Instead, Jasso ripped the second pitch of her at-bat over the left centerfield fence for a game-ending home run, giving the Orange a 9-1 mercy rule win. Jasso raised her arms as she sped around the bases. Her teammates emptied the dugout and mobbed her at home plate, chanting “ACC.”
On the final day of the season, Syracuse (25-20, 7-15 Atlantic Coast) completed a three-game sweep of North Carolina (23-28, 6-18 AC) to qualify for the ACC Tournament. Heading into this weekend, the Tar Heels sat two games ahead of the Orange in the ACC standings, meaning Syracuse needed to win all three games of the series to reach the tournament. SU did just that, with Jasso’s home run serving as an exclamation point for the sweep.
“(We had a) desire to continue our season,” Paris Woods said. “We really just want to make sure one more day, we just want one more day.”
After back-to-back starts by Lindsey Hendrix, Ariana Adams took to the mound for Syracuse on Sunday afternoon. She walked the first batter on four pitches but rebounded, allowing four hits and one run over three-plus innings of work.
Syracuse combatted UNC starter Hannah George hard from the start. George’s last start was a three-run, four-hit complete game on Friday. However, she lasted just an inning and two thirds this afternoon.
Jasso led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an error by shortstop Alex Brown, but UNC caught her stealing second three pitches later. With the bases now empty, Neli Casares-Maher singled to center. Kelly Breen followed up Casares-Maher’s single with one of her own, and advanced to second on a misplay by left fielder Kiannah Pierce. Tessa Galipeau grounded out to second, but Casares-Maher scored to give the Orange a 1-0 lead.
After scoring four runs in the second inning yesterday, Syracuse capitalized again in the second frame this afternoon. For the second consecutive inning, the Tar Heels made an error and allowed Syracuse’s leadoff batter to reach base. This time, third baseman Destiny Middleton made a throwing error on a Carli Campbell grounder, and the ball skipped away from first base as Campbell advanced to second.
After a Laila Alves sacrifice bunt moved her to third, Rebecca Clyde scored her with an RBI single to right field. But for the second straight inning, Syracuse stalled its own rally by making a baserunning mistake: Clyde had left first base too early and was called out. Woods singled and later scored on a Jasso triple that soared over center fielder Bri Stubbs’ head. Casares-Maher singled her home to knock George out of the game and increase the Orange’s lead to 4-0.
North Carolina threatened to score in the third inning with the bases loaded and just one out, but Adams got Middleton to ground into a fielder’s choice and then struck out Taylor Greene to end the inning.
Syracuse scored four more times in the bottom half of the third, bringing its lead to 8-0. After Galipeau walked — her fourth of the series — Campbell dribbled a pitch perfectly between the pitcher and catcher for an infield single.
With a 2-0 count, Alves swung at a pitch in the dirt, but the umpire called Lilli Backes for an illegal pitch, making the count 3-0. She walked on the next pitch to load the bases. Woods then stroked a bases-clearing triple to give Syracuse a 7-0 lead, before Jasso singled her home for Syracuse’s fourth run of the inning.
On the second pitch of the fourth inning, Kiersten Licea crushed a pitch over the left field scoreboard to ensure the Tar Heels wouldn’t get mercied just yet. After a Kianna Jones walk, Adams was replaced by Hendrix, who finished out the game.
With pinch runner Carsyn Snead on first, Hendrix struck out Brown, looking for the first out of the inning. Casares-Maher made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch for the second out and Alves caught Snead stealing to end the inning. In a scoreless three innings, Hendrix allowed a single hit and walked one batter.
With the win almost secured, Jasso’s home run abruptly ended the contest and sent Syracuse to the ACC Tournament with its first ACC mercy rule win of the year. As Tar Heel players huddled in right field, Syracuse came together on the left, celebrating the team’s tournament berth.
With NC State’s loss to Florida State this afternoon, Syracuse leapfrogged the Wolfpack to take possession of the No. 9 seed. The Orange will face No. 8 Louisville – who swept the Orange in April – at 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Syracuse has never won an ACC Tournament game in seven tries – the Orange were no-hit by Georgia Tech in last year’s first round.
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