The NC State softball team suffered a pair of losses at home in games two and three of its final regular season series, as No. 21 Duke swept the doubleheader winning 7-0 and 4-2, respectively. The Pack has mustered only five hits across the first three games of the series.
Similar to the series opener, the Blue Devils (38-10, 25-10 ACC) scored early and often in the both halves of the doubleheader, building a solid lead over the Wolfpack (25-23, 15-21 ACC). The first game saw the Blue Devils score one run each in the first three innings, while graduate student shortstop Randi Farricker notched the Pack’s first hit of the series with a single to left field in the first. This amounted to the Wolfpack’s only hit of the ballgame, as Duke pitchers Peyton St. George and Brianna Butler combined for seven shutout innings.
“We just gotta compete more,” said head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift. “We have to get the big hit, we didn’t get that. We had a chance to do that in the second game, we’ve just gotta compete.”
The Blue Devils pulled away in the fourth inning, as freshman left-handed pitcher Estelle Czech gave up back-to-back homers to lead off the inning, spelling the end of her day. Redshirt sophomore right-hander Sydney Nester took over from there, but she too surrendered two runs in the inning, and Duke held a 7-0 lead by the middle of the fourth.
The Wolfpack was unable to put up much of a fight in the later innings, failing to reach base and striking out five times from the fifth inning onward, as Duke sealed the victory.
The latter half of the doubleheader was more of the same, as freshman right-handed pitcher Brooklyn Lucero had a rough start. The righty gave up a solo homer and an RBI double in the first inning, and an RBI single deepened the Pack’s deficit to 3-0 by the end of the second inning. Lucero recovered quickly to keep the Blue Devils in check, however, as a fourth-inning sacrifice fly was all they could glean from Lucero from the third inning onward.
“She’s stepping up at a time where we need one of the pitchers to do that,” Patrick-Swift said. “It’s good because she gets a lot of balls on the ground and our infield can work behind her. If she keeps being steady for us, then that’ll be a good thing.”
NC State did not go without some scoring chances in the second game, however, as it loaded the bases in a two-out rally in the first. The chance fizzled out as quickly as it came though, as freshman second baseman Kaylee Lambrecht hit a chopper back to the pitcher’s circle that resulted in a 1-3 putout to end the inning.
The Blue Devils had extended their lead to 4-0 by the bottom of the sixth, when the Wolfpack rallied to cut that deficit in half only to once again strand three baserunners. Redshirt junior catcher Sam Sack drove home the Pack’s first run of the series with an RBI double to right field. After redshirt junior right fielder Carson Shaner drew a walk, NC State found itself in a bases-loaded no-out scenario, putting itself within striking distance.
The golden opportunity was poorly executed upon, however, as the Pack only managed to squeeze one more run out of the inning via an infield RBI single by freshman designated player Gracie Roberts. A popout to short and a pair of strikeouts prevented State from seizing the opportunity. An uneventful seventh sealed the 4-2 victory for Duke as the Wolfpack went down in order.
“We got to hit the ball hard and in play,” Patrick-Swift said. “We can’t make it easy for them with strikeouts and weak balls off the bat. We have to get the ball out over the fence, that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s tough for our team to win if we’re not hitting home runs, so that’s what we need to focus on doing more.”
The Pack will finish out the series and the regular season on Sunday, May 9 against Duke. The game will be available for viewing on ACC Network Extra at noon.