Posted-May 17th, 2013 1:50 am
EUGENE, Ore . -- Playing in its first NCAA tournament game since 2005 and looking for its first regional win since 2001, the No. 25 Wisconsin softball team came up just short Thursday evening, suffering a 3-2 loss to North Carolina in the opening game at Howe Field in Eugene, Ore.
The Badgers fought through a one hour rain delay and forced extra innings with a home run in the bottom of the seventh, but just couldn't close the door on a tough Tar Heel squad.
"North Carolina, give all the credit to them, they have some hitters and they've got some great pitching," said head coach Yvette Healy after the game. "They outplayed us today. I was really pleased with the passion we came out with."
Wisconsin (42-12) struck first, scoring a run in the third inning on a Michelle Mueller sacrifice fly.
Play was halted for an hour in the top of the fourth due to rain and poor playing conditions.
North Carolina (40-19) came out of the rain delay and scored a quick run, taking advantage a Badger error to tie the game, 1-1.
"I don't know if the rain was anything," responded Healy when asked about the effect of the delay. "I give the credit to North Carolina. I think they've got good hitters. They are strong and those kids have a lot of pop.
"I think we were still pretty focused. I think the team played hard. I don't think we rolled over or anything. Rain is always a tough thing, you've got to figure out how to stay focused."
The game stayed knotted at 1-1 for the fifth and sixth innings, before UNC jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh. The Tar Heels led off the inning with a double and scored on a single down the left field line to take the lead.
With their backs against the wall, the Badgers found themselves in familiar territory and this time it was Marissa Mersch who got to play the role of hero. Mersch picked a great time to hit her first home run of the season, sending the ball into the scoreboard beyond the right field fence to tie the game 2-2.
North Carolina answered right back in the top of the eighth, moving runners into scoring position by playing the short game before scoring the eventual game-winning run on a fly ball in foul territory.
Shannel Blackshear lead off with a single in the bottom of the eighth and Stephanie Peace reached first on an error in left field, but the Badgers were unable to push a run across the plate.
Cassandra Darrah pitched all 8.0 innings for the Badgers, allowing three runs, two earned, on nine hits and striking out four.
Lori Spingola earned the win for UNC, pitching all 8.0 innings and allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits and striking out eight.
Wisconsin continues action in the double-elimination tournament on Friday at 4 p.m. CT when it takes the field against the loser of the No. 3 Oregon and BYU game.