The Radford University Softball team stumbled out of the gates on Wednesday as they quickly dropped to 0-2 on the season. The Highlanders had no easy match-up as they took on No.23 ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Radford got big games from freshman outfielder Becky Mantel and senior utility player Ryndee Ruch, both of whom, recorded three hits each for the Highs.
In the first games of the doubleheader, Radford struggled to get things started as UNC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning and then never looked back. After a couple of singles in the third, Carolina was able to scoot home after an RU throwing error.
The Tar Heels kept rolling with a two-run home run in the fourth inning and then added four more runs in the fifth and sixth innings, all scored with two outs in the inning.
Junior utility player Jessie Hutchens kept play alive though, with a two-out double in the seventh inning. After freshman utility player Megan Honaker came in as a pinch runner for Hutchens, Mantel struck with a grounder up the gut to allow Honaker to hit home. The RBI single was the first hit of Mantel’s collegiate career, showing great potential in the young outfielder.
The Highs struggled to get their offense going as they faced Carolina’s ace in the first game, Lori Spingola. Spingola twirled a one hitter in the first game while striking out 12 over six innings. The Tar Heels had no trouble with the RU pitching however, tallying 13 hits in the first game of the doubleheader.
Senior pitcher Jackie Jenkins pitched the entire game for Radford and had six earned runs in the game with only one strikeout. Ruch recorded the first hit of the 2013 season in the top of the second with a single down the left field line, but Radford was unable to convert and left Ruch stranded.
The Highlanders got off to a much better start in the second game of the day as they raced out to a 3-1 lead. That lead would soon diminish but not without a fight from the Highs.
Freshman catcher Emily Naegele jumpstarted Radford in the first with a bomb to right center to give RU a 1-0 lead. The home run was the first collegiate hit for Naegele.
North Carolina rallied back though in the second after a two-out bases loaded single. Things could have gone a lot worse for the Highlanders had Mantel not secured a Tar Heel trying to score from second to end the inning and the scoring threat.
RU regained the lead in the fourth inning after a two-out rally. Ruch knocked in two with a single, recording her first RBIs of the season. Mantel also notched a double in the inning on a rope to left center field which moved Hutchens, who had singled, to third. The Tar Heels made a pitching change after the first two hits of the inning but that did not stop Ruch from connecting on the single.
UNC threatened in the bottom half of the inning but freshman pitcher Rachael Walters was able to maneuver out of a one-out bases loaded jam by inducing a force out at home and then a fly ball out to left for the last out of the inning.
Carolina took control in the fifth, however, as they scored six runs with two outs to regain the lead for good. UNC connected for five straight singles to give them the offensive push they needed to take the lead. Even after a Radford pitching change, the Tar Heels continued to roll as they scored three more runs before the inning was over.
Walters took the loss for the Highs after four innings of work and was then relieved freshman pitcher Allie Reid. Walters gave up 10 hits and seven earned runs while Reid gave up two hits in one inning of work.
With the season opening losses Radford drops to 0-2 while North Carolina improves to 5-2 on the young season. Radford will return home to prepare for rival Virginia Tech, as they will host the Hokies on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m.