Pitt Punches Ticket To ACC Championship Game

King, solid defense stifle North Carolina in 4-0 semifinal victory

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (theACC.com) – Keep calling them underdogs if you must, but the sixth-seeded Pitt Panthers continue to have a presence in the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship.

More specifically, they have a presence in the Championship’s title game following Friday’s 4-0 semifinal win over second-seeded North Carolina at Tech Softball Park.

Right-hander Savannah King delivered her second consecutive masterful outing on the mound, and Shelby Pickett homered as Pitt handed the hard-hitting Tar Heels just their second shutout loss of the season.

Having reached the title game in their first-ever ACC Softball Championship appearance, the Panthers (35-19) will face top-seeded and champion defending Florida State (44-12) for the trophy Saturday at 1 p.m.

A win would assure the Panthers of their first-ever spot in the NCAA Tournament field. Regardless of the outcome versus FSU, Pitt might have already accomplished enough here this week to assure itself of a berth when selections are announced late Sunday night.

Despite falling short in its bid for an ACC championship, UNC (36-14) figures to be in good shape for an NCAA Tournament at-large selection.

King (20-7) allowed the Tar Heels a mere four hits – all singles – and did not walk a batter. After striking out one batter while handcuffing third-seeded Notre Dame in similar fashion in Thursday night’s 8-1 quarterfinal win, King did not strike out a single UNC hitter on Friday.

But making good pitches and trusting her fielders has worked out well for the Orange County, California, senior. In 14 ACC Softball Championship innings, King has yielded one earned run while allowing 10 hits and walking three.

Just as they did in their quarterfinal win over Notre Dame, the Panthers got off to a quick start in the top of the first inning Friday. A pair of infield singles and walk loaded the bases, and an RBI single by Carly Thea and Kaitlin Manuel’s sacrifice fly plated two runs. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, Kathryn Duran drew a walk to force home another run and put Pitt up 3-0.

The became 4-0 in the top of the second when leadoff hitter Pickett hit her eighth home run of the year on a 1-0 pitch from UNC’s Kaylee Carlson, who had come in relief of starter Sydney Matzko (14-5) during the Panthers’ big first inning.

And that proved more than enough for King, who cruised from there backed by a defensive unit that did not make an error, made several eye-opening stops and turned one double play. King finished the game having thrown just 78 pitches, 48 for strikes.

Saturday’s championship game will be carried live on ESPN. Live statistics will be available throughout the event on the championship website, http://theacc.co/SB15champ.

Pitt and Florida State met in a regular-season ACC series at Tallahassee in late March, with the Seminoles posting three shutout wins.