CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (seminoles.com) – Impressive starts by pitchers Sarah Hamilton and Jessica Nori were spoiled as the Florida State University softball team lost both games of a doubleheader, 1-0 and 3-2, to North Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Anderson Stadium.
The Seminoles (16-16, 2-3) had another tough day on offense when runners were on base, stranding a combined 13 base runners. The combined two runs on the day were not enough to salvage great outings by Hamilton and Nori, who kept FSU in both games by pounding the strike zone and keeping the Tar Heels (21-12, 4-1) from hitting balls in the air.
Hamilton (9-11) took an undeserving loss for FSU in game one, pitching extremely well all game. The Tallahassee native pitched six strong innings and allowed just one run on five hits with four strikeouts. It is the seventh time this season that Hamilton has started a game and gotten two runs or less of run support.
Hamilton did not allow a base runner through her first three innings pitched, showing excellent command throughout the game. When UNC batters did reach base and get into scoring position, Hamilton found ways to leave those innings unblemished. Her one mistake came with a bit of confusion, occurring on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch that appeared to hit off the knob of the bat for a foul ball.
Tiffani Brown finished 2-for-4 to lead the Seminoles in the first game, while FSU finished with three hits overall. Shayla Jackson provided the other hit, going 1-for-3.
FSU had a chance to start the game strong after Brown and Jackson led off the game by reaching base. Two outs later, Ashley Stager drew a walk to load the bases, but the Seminoles were not able to bring any runs home after a strikeout to end the inning.
The Seminoles were bit by a difficult call that allowed the Tar Heels to score the game’s first and only run in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and a full count, Brittany McKinney appeared to foul a ball off the knob of her bat, which is what was originally ruled. After a conference by the three umpires, a reverse of the call was made and it was ruled that McKinney was hit by a pitch to bring in the game-winning run. Kelli Wheeler led off the inning with a double to centerfield and ended up scoring the run.
FSU had another prime chance in the sixth, as Jen Lapicki led off the inning by reaching base on an error. Stager then got on base by a fielder’s choice bunt and was placed on second base when Briana Hamilton stepped to the plate. Hamilton hit a line-shot that looked to go over the head of centerfielder Dani Manko, but Manko made a leaping catch to preserve the lead for UNC.
In game two, another bases-loaded walk resulted in an early 1-0 lead for UNC in the third inning, as Ally Blake brought in the first run with a patient at-bat. FSU had a chance to respond in the fifth when Jackson hit a sinking liner to left field that was snagged by a diving Amy Nece, robbing a possible run-scoring hit. In the bottom half of the fifth, Jackson returned the favor by making a nice play on a liner from Nece with two outs that would have scored a Tar Heel from third base.
Nori threw five strong innings and allowed two earned runs in the second game, taking a no decision. The Weston, Fla., native overpowered several of the UNC hitters, utilizing his fastball and finding good placement on her pitches through most of the afternoon. Hamilton entered the game for FSU in the top of the sixth and endured her second loss of the day after allowing a sacrifice fly Kelsey Green, bringing in the game-winning run. The loss dropped FSU’s record to 1-7 in 1-run games this season.
The only source of offense in game two came off the bat of Ashley Stager, who hit a two-run home run to give FSU a brief 2-1 lead in the sixth. It was Stager’s 19th home run of her career, and the sixth of the year to tie her season high. She is now tied with former Seminole Lisa Davidson (1991-94) for sixth place on FSU’s career home runs list.
The Seminoles outhit UNC in game two, 8-6, as Robin Ahrberg and Briana Hamilton led the team with two hits apiece.
FSU returns with a 1 p.m. start time against the Tar Heels on Sunday afternoon at Anderson Stadium.