CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With help from their fourth grand slam of the season, the Charlotte 49ers softball team shocked the #20 North Carolina Tar Heels with a 10-6 win Tuesday at D.L. Phillips Complex. The Niners (25-19) scored more runs against the nationally ranked Tar Heels (36-11) than any other team this season. With the upset victory, Charlotte has now won 10 of its last 11 games.
Kalie Lang's third inning grand slam proved to be the difference maker, giving the 49ers a lead they would not relinquish. With two outs and an 0-2 count, Lang drilled a ball over the left field fence, her third home run of the season and the Niners' fourth grand slam on the year. That hit gave Charlotte a 5-2 lead, and the 49ers would not look back.
The green and white got off to a bit of a rough start, as starter Katie Watkins allowed lead-off home runs to left fielder Kelli Wheeler and catcher Logan Foulks in the first and second innings to fall behind, 2-0.
In the third inning, though, rookie center fielder Alex Rogers breathed life into the Niners' offense with a two-out infield single, Charlotte's first hit of the game. Lorena Vela and Briana Gwaltney drew walks to load the bases for Samantha Slade, who was hit by a pitch to drive in the 49ers' first run of the day. Then came Lang's go-ahead slam.
The Charlotte offense would go on to build a six-run lead over the Tar Heels, scoring two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth for an 8-2 advantage. A UNC throwing error was key in the fourth frame, allowing two 49ers to move in to scoring position with one out for Alex Rogers, who capitalized with a two-run double.
Chelsea Stamey's RBI single to right field in the fifth inning allowed Slade to come across for the second time in the game, expanding the Niner lead.
North Carolina put up a fight in the sixth inning, giving the home crowd a scare by putting four runs on the board to cut the deficit to two runs, 8-6. All four runs in the inning came off the home run ball, as Haleigh Dickey, Foulks and Orr went deep back-to-back-to-back. All six Tar Heel runs in the game, in fact, were scored via the long ball.
Unphased by the UNC comeback bid, Charlotte tallied two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to push the advantage to 10-6. This time it was freshman catcher Jackie Kleinsmith who came through, belting a two-run single through the left side that scored Slade and Gwaltney.
The Heels threatened again in the top of the seventh with a two-out single and double that placed a pair of runners in scoring position, but relief pitcher Lexi Betancourt got Foulks to go down on strikes for the final out, sealing the upset.
Lang paced the 49ers with a 2-for-3 effort and four RBIs on the grand slam, while Rogers and Kleinsmith each drove in a pair of runs. For UNC, Wheeler, Dickey, Foulks and Orr all homered to notch the only Tar Heel RBIs of the day.
In the circle, Watkins (11-10) went 5.1 innings and allowed five runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Betancourt picked up the save, pitching 1.2 innings of relief, allowing one run on four hits with a strikeout. For the Tar Heels, Lori Springola (26-9) surrendered eight runs (seven earned) on five hits through 4.0 innings with 8 K's and three walks. Ashley Bone pitched the final 2.0 innings, giving up two hits and one earned run.
Charlotte returns to conference play this weekend, taking on Rhode Island and UMass on the road. The Niners face the Rhodies in single games Friday (3 p.m.) and Saturday (12 p.m.) before playing a noon doubleheader Sunday with the Minutewomen.