It took just two collegiate at-bats for freshman Christina Bardwell to make an impact for Texas softball.
Texas trailed North Carolina, 5-3, in the bottom of the fifth inning on Friday evening when Bardwell stepped up to the plate for her second pinch hit appearance of the game. With runners on second and third and two outs, she ripped a two-RBI single to left to tie the game.
The Longhorns emerged victorious three innings later, taking down the Tarheels 6-5 in eight innings for their second win of the season.
“It was surreal,” Bardwell said. “I had a nervous confidence going up there. I was so proud and I’m just really glad I could get it done for my team.”
Bardwell’s heroics were set up by fellow pinch hitter, junior Mickenzi Krpec, who came into the game when Texas trailed 5-2. Krpec was Texas’ top pinch hitter in 2015 and picked up right where she left off, sending a bullet down the right field line for a RBI double.
The big fifth inning erased a three-run Tar Heel lead and sparked the Texas comeback.
“I thought we had great tenacity,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought we competed well. Bardwell came up with that big hit for us, so that was good to see, and Krpec was tremendous.”
Sophomore pitcher Paige von Sprecken got the start for the Longhorns, but her Texas debut was less than stellar. She threw just 3.2 innings, recorded two strikeouts and gave up two home runs.
UNC sophomore second baseman Taylor Wike started the game with a leadoff homerun to left field. Texas’ senior center fielder Lindsey Stephens notched a RBI double in the bottom half of the opening frame to tie the game up.
The powerful Tar Heel offense, however, continued to take advantage of von Sprecken’s struggles in the second inning. Senior shortstop Kristen Brown launched a three-run blast over the left field fence with two down to put UNC up, 4-1. Junior left fielder Stephanie Wong drew a four-pitch walk with bases loaded to notch a RBI and cut the Tar Heel lead in half.
“Paige had some butterflies,” Clark said. “I think it was a great experience to get out of the way. She had to work through it, made some good adjustments and she’s going to do some great things for us.”
Sophomore pitcher Kristen Clark entered the game in relief and slowed down the Tar Heel offense. The only run she gave up came off an error by Wong. Junior pitcher Tiarra Davis pitched in the eighth inning and grabbed the win after junior third baseman Celina Felix got hit by a pitch with bases loaded to bring in the winning run.
“Our team motto this year is ‘prove them wrong’,” Bardwell said. “If we get down, it’s not the end of the world for us. We never say die.”
The Longhorns and Tar Heels will face off in a rematch at 1 p.m. Saturday before Texas goes up against Arkansas at 3:30 p.m. The Longhorns beat the Razorbacks 4-1 on Thursday night.