A day after splitting its first doubleheader of the 2020 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida, the NC State softball team split another doubleheader on Saturday, falling 6-2 to No. 15 Kentucky in eight innings and defeating Missouri State 7-5.
The Wolfpack (2-2) started the day with a gut-wrenching loss against Kentucky. The Wildcats (3-0) got the scoring started with an RBI single in the first inning, then the Pack answered in the second inning after junior catcher Sam Shack hit a single that brought home redshirt junior infielder Randi Farricker following an error from the Wildcats to make the score 1-1. Kentucky hit another RBI single in the bottom of the second to take a 2-1 lead.
Following three scoreless innings from both teams, junior infielder Logan Morris hit an RBI single that brought home senior outfielder Tatyana Forbes to tie the score 2-2 in the top of the sixth. Sophomore pitcher Sydney Nester would hold the Wildcats without scoring for the next two innings, and at the end of the seventh inning, the score was still tied 2-2, meaning the game would go into extra innings.
The international tiebreaker rule was in effect for today’s game, meaning that at the start of the eighth inning, the batting team could place a runner on second base with nobody out. The Pack couldn’t score in the top of the eighth despite having junior outfielder Sam Russ on second to start the inning and Forbes getting to second at one point.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kentucky advanced its second base runner to third base on a sacrifice bunt, then Nester intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases. The next batter for the Wildcats, pitcher Autumn Humes, hit a walk-off grand slam to give Kentucky a 6-2 victory. Humes not only hit the game-winning home run, but she was credited with a win of her own in pitching.
Following the heartbreaking loss against a top-25 team, the Pack had to turn right back around and play another game against Missouri State. The Bears (0-3) scored first after a bases-loaded walk in the first inning, then the Pack answered as Morris hit in two runs in the third inning to make the score 2-1. Later in the inning, senior outfielder Bridgette Nordberg hit a two-run home run to make the score 4-1.
The Bears responded with two runs in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3, but NC State had an answer as Russ hit an RBI and Forbes hit in two to extend the lead to 7-3 at the end of the fourth. The Bears would make a last-ditch comeback effort in the seventh, hitting a two-run home run to cut the lead to 7-5, but senior pitcher Devin Wallace retired the last two batters to pick up her first win of the season and secure the victory for the Wolfpack.
After two days of competition to open the 2020 season in Florida, NC State finds itself at 2-2. Of the four teams the Pack has played thus far, three are ranked in the top 25. Those teams include No. Kentucky, No. 21 Ole Miss and No. 8 Minnesota. The Pack defeated Ole Miss yesterday 3-2 and lost to Minnesota 13-7. It has one more game in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, which is Sunday against Mississippi State at noon.