ATHENS, Ga. — The N.C. State softball team moved into the winners’ bracket of the NCAA Athens (Ga.) Regional with a 4-0 win against Alabama-Birmingham on Friday afternoon at Jack Turner Stadium. With the win, the Wolfpack improves to 35-16 on the year while the Blazers fall to 31-26.
“I thought we did a terrific job today right off the bat,” coach Shawn Rychcik said. “We got three quick outs (on defense) then loaded the bases (on offense). I was really happy with that, but I wish we could have scored one in the first. We put some good pressure on them in the first couple of innings and finally broke through after a couple of innings.”
The Wolfpack came out swinging in the contest, as the first three batters in the lineup each singled to load the bases in the bottom of the first. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, UAB was able to escape the jam without giving up a run.
N.C. State broke through in the bottom of the third with three runs to take a 3-0 lead. Sophomore Hanna Sommer started the rally with a single up the middle and seniors Leah Jones and Scout Albertson followed with singles to load the bases. Senior Chelsea Tate drove in the first run of the game on a single down the third base line that bounced off of the base.
Nadia Kemp, who pinch-ran for Sommer, scampered home to score and Jones slide safely into third base. Junior Sara Lippard walked to keep the bases loaded and plate the second run of the game before senior Kirsty Grant was hit by a pitch, scoring the third run of the inning.
North Carolina 4, Georgia 2: Sophomore Brett Clark clinched the Tar Heels’ first trip to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in 22 years as the No. 7 seed Heels defeated the No. 10 seed and host Bulldogs.
Clark’s win at No. 3 singles capped a brilliant afternoon for coach Sam Paul’s Tar Heels before a partisan Georgia crowd at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. In the process, Clark won his 37th singles match of the 2013-14 campaign, breaking the school record he had shared with Roland Thornqvist (1992-93) and Nicholas Monroe (2003-04).
The Tar Heels won a tight doubles point from the homestanding Bulldogs and then got victories from the top three players in their singles lineup to prevail over Georgia, which finished the season at 18-8. Carolina, which had already set the school record for victories in a season, improved to 27-5.
Next up for the Tar Heels will be second-ranked Oklahoma Sunday at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Sooners advanced with a 4-0 win over Kentucky.