The NC State softball team swept a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday, April 10 at Dail Softball Stadium, winning the first game 7-3 and the second game by mercy rule 9-1 to clinch the series.
Redshirt senior center fielder Angie Rizzi led the way with three hits in each game, including a go-ahead home run in the second game.
“I’ve put in a lot of work because I know, as a senior, this is my last year,” Rizzi said. “I wanted to be able to be the one to win the ballgame. That home run mindset is important to us, so I wanted to go up there, not looking for a perfect pitch, but I take my swing and hopefully it goes over the fence.”
The Wolfpack (20-11, 13-11 ACC) sprinted out of the gate in the first game as it piled up a 5-0 lead on the Panthers (10-24, 5-19 ACC) by the end of the first inning. Each of NC State’s first four batters reached base before redshirt junior shortstop Randi Farricker grounded into a fielder’s choice for the first out, though she also drove in the Pack’s second run.
Redshirt senior right fielder Tatyana Forbes and redshirt junior catcher Madeline Curtis each slotted an RBI single through the right side to tack on two more runs to NC State’s lead, and then Forbes scored from third on an error by Pittsburgh’s shortstop
“We came out ready to play, ready to swing,” said head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift. “We faced [Pittsburgh right-handed pitcher Abby Edwards] the night before, so we were thinking about what they were going to do, what they were going to throw, how they were going to throw us. Even though it was a different pitcher, we knew we had a plan. We had a strategy in place and they went out and executed. That definitely contributed to the success early.”
The Panthers refused to go quietly though, as Pittsburgh center fielder Hunter Levesque hit a one-out solo home run in the second inning to put her team on the board. Freshman left-handed pitcher Estelle Czech slipped up again in the third inning with another surrendered solo homer, but she rebounded by retiring the Panthers in order in the top of the fourth.
“The big thing is that we talk about how you’re playing good hitting teams,” Patrick-Swift said. “People can hit the ball out of the park the whole way through the lineup. If they’re going to hit it out, our job is to make sure that it’s going to be a solo shot. We’re not walking people, hitting people, having errors and things like that. While you never want to see the ball go out of the park against you, solo home runs we can deal with.”
The Wolfpack extended its lead to 7-2 in the bottom frame with a pair of solo home runs from Rizzi and redshirt junior third baseman Logan Morris. The two sluggers combined for eight hits in 13 at-bats that included three dingers.
“They were looking for a pitch that they knew they could hit out,” Patrick-Swift said. “We’re not looking for in or out or up or down, we’re looking for a pitch that they individually know that they can hit out and that they hit out every day at batting practice.”
The Panthers attempted to mount a comeback with a solo homer in the sixth, but left two runners on base in that frame before freshman right-handed pitcher Brooklyn Lucero closed out the game with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Despite striking out six times in the first game, the Pack was unafraid to take its hacks from the batter’s box.
“We went up there to be aggressive,” Rizzi said. “We took our swings, went up there and had the home run mindset, but [Patrick-Swift] said that Pitt was beating us at our own game, so a lot of us didn’t like that. We had to take advantage of that and use our own home run mindset.”
The Panthers got on the board in the top of the first to start the second game, but that would be the only run the Panthers would score for the rest of the game. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Sydney Nester and redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Abby Trahan each faced situations with the bases loaded, but both were able to make it out of those respective innings without allowing a run.
“[Trahan] came in with bases loaded, no outs, and she got us out of the inning with no runs scored,” Rizzi said. “I think that definitely changed the vibe coming back into the dugout, and that definitely helped us just attack their pitchers.”
After going the first four innings without a run, the Pack finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth in a big way as Rizzi hit a three-run home run, driving in freshman utility player Gracie Roberts and Forbes to put the Pack up 3-1.
“It’s really hard to keep our offense from scoring runs and hitting the ball hard,” Patrick-Swift said. “We were waiting for the big hit and the home run, and we knew it was gonna happen. It was just a matter of who was gonna do it first and who was gonna do it next.”
Farricker later drove in NC State’s fourth run with a double over the second baseman, but NC State was far from done with putting the game on ice. Redshirt freshman first baseman Libby Whittaker clocked a towering three-run homer to straightaway center to make it 7-1 in favor of the Pack before redshirt junior left fielder Sam Russ hit a two-RBI single over second base to finalize the 9-1 victory after six innings.
Find us a better bunt-power hitter than Sam Russ. We'll wait. pic.twitter.com/25jYF3mUaC— NC State Softball (@PackSoftball) April 10, 2021
“That was huge,” Patrick-Swift said of the sixth-inning scoring. “That was what we had talked about to the team between games. My challenge to them was to play less than seven.”
With the doubleheader sweep in hand, the Wolfpack will look to complete the series sweep against the Panthers before taking on a tough section of its schedule starting with No. 17 LSU on April 16.
“The way we played this first game and the second half of the second game, if we go out there tomorrow with the same mindset, the same aggressive, we’ll be perfectly fine,” Rizzi said.
The Pack will look to complete the series sweep of the Panthers on Sunday, April 11 at Dail Softball Stadium. The game will be aired at 5 p.m. on the ACC Network.