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May 14, 2011
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Second-seeded North Carolina scored four runs in the fourth inning and withheld a late rally to defeat third-seeded Maryland 7-3 in the first semifinal game of the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship Saturday at Mewborn Field in Atlanta, Ga.
With the victory, North Carolina improves to 34-20 (13-7 ACC). The Tar Heels will make their first appearance in the championship game since 2002 and are seeking their first title since 2001. UNC will meet either fourth-seeded Florida State or eighth-seeded Virginia. The Tar Heels swept Florida State during the regular season and took two of three against Virginia. Maryland falls to 39-17 (12-7 ACC) on the season.
Freshman pitcher Lori Spingola, a first team All-ACC selection, earned the complete game victory to move to 27-15 on the season. She surrendered three earned runs on eight hits while striking out eight Terrapins. Spingola finished the game with 137 pitches of which 94 were strikes.
ACC Pitcher of the Year Kerry Hickey suffered the loss to move to 18-9 on the season. The senior tossed five innings, surrendering six earned runs on seven hits while striking out six Tar Heels. Junior Kendra Knight pitched two hitless innings, walking one batter. She struck out three of the eight batters she faced.
Freshman shortstop Logan Foulks led North Carolina at the plate, going 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored. Five more Tar Heels tallied one hit each. Junior Kelsey Green came on as a pinch hitter and hit her first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fourth. Senior designated player Brittany Robinson finished the game with two RBI.
Leading the Terrapins at the plate was sophomore outfielder Sara Acosta went 3-for-3, scoring twice. Hickey finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI. Three more Maryland student-athletes registered a hit in the game.
North Carolina put a run on the board in the top of the first as Foulks singled through the right side to plate freshman outfielder Amy Nece. Maryland responded in the bottom of the inning to tie it at one all. With the bases loaded senior third baseman Marisha Branson was hit by a pitch, brining Acosta across home plate.
The Tar Heels struck again in the top of the second. Robinson sent a solo shot just inside the left field pole to give North Carolina a 2-1 lead. It was Robinson's fifth round-tripper of the season.
After a scoreless third inning, North Carolina put four on the board in the fourth to extend its lead to five runs. Robinson grounded out to second base, but Foulks was able to cross home plate to make the score 3-1. Two batters later Green came on as a pinch hitter. With runners on second and third, she homered to left field.
The Tar Heels added one more in the top of the seventh. An error by the shortstop allowed Nece to score her second run of the day giving UNC a 7-1 lead.
Maryland loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh. A single to left field by Hickey scored freshman outfielder Amanda McCann. Spingola walked the next batter, sophomore second baseman Nikki Maier, and Acosta scored her second run of the day to make the score 7-3. Spingola was able to get out of the jam as freshman pinch hitter Candice Beards was called looking for the final out.
The Terrapins stranded nine batters for the game to the Tar Heels' five. North Carolina had two players each record a stolen base, including two by Nece.
Sunday's championship game will be televised with coverage beginning at 1 p.m. live on FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Carolinas, SportSouth and CSN Mid-Atlantic. A tape delay of the game will air on SunSports at 11 p.m.