CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Behind a strong performance in the circle from Jasmin Harrell and some timely hitting, the fourth-seeded Virginia Tech softball team upset top-seeded and 21st-ranked North Carolina 4-1 Friday afternoon at Anderson Stadium in the semifinals of the 2012 ACC Softball Championship.
Tech got a superb outing from Harrell, who went the distance to improve to 29-13 on the season. She allowed one unearned run on four hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.
The Hokies jumped on the board in the first inning when freshman Kelsey Mericka drove in fellow freshman Lauren Gaskill with a single. The Tar Heels responded in the second inning, using a walk, stolen base, passed ball and pinch-hit single to get an unearned run off Harrell to tie it up.
From there on out, it was all Tech, scoring the last three runs. In the third inning, Courtney Liddle drew a bases-loaded walk to plate a run and then Gaskill scored on an RBI ground out from Logan Spaw. Tech got a big insurance run in the fifth inning when Mericka doubled down the line to plate Kylie McGoldrick.
The Tar Heels made a run at it in the sixth inning to make things interesting. Ally Blake drew a leadoff walk and then Haley Dickey singled through the left side of the infield. After another passed ball put runners on second and third base, Harrell got a strikeout before intentionally walking Constance Orr to load the bases. She then proceeded to mow down Jordan Scarboro and Lauren Walker to escape the jam and bring the dugout to life.
Tech was led at the plate by Mericka, who had two hits and two RBIs. McGoldrick also had two hits while Gaskill, Betty Rose and Bkaye Smith each had one.
UNC pitcher Lori Spingola, the ACC Pitcher of the Year, allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits with a walk and just four strikeouts, well below her seasonal average.
With the win, Tech (40-18) advanced to its fourth ACC title game, which will be played Saturday afternoon against third-seeded Georgia Tech at 4 p.m. and will be shown nationally on ESPN. Tech is 2-1 in previous ACC finals, last winning in 2008. This will also be Virginia Tech’s eighth conference title game appearance in 17 seasons (three in the A-10, one in the Big East, and now four in the ACC).
UPDATED GAME NOTES
• Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech played a three-game series in Atlanta in late April with Georgia Tech winning 2-1. Georgia Tech won the first game 5-0. The Hokies won the second game 5-2 before Georgia Tech won 5-0 on five unearned runs in the last game.
• Junior Betty Rose and senior Marra Hvozdovic were scheduled to walk at Virginia Tech’s graduation on Friday, but still graduated nonetheless - Hvozdovic graduating with a degree in management and Rose graduating in three years, also with a degree in management. First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama gave the commencement speech in Blacksburg. Hvozdovic earned an internship with the ACC for next year and will intern in the ACC Championships Department. Rose will begin graduate school this upcoming fall as a senior.
• This will be Tech’s first appearance on ESPN since the Women’s College World Series in 2008. Tech also beat the US National Team in 2008 on ESPN.
• Georgia Tech holds an 19-13 lead in the all-time series against the Hokies, and Georgia Tech is 2-1 all-time against Hokies in the ACC Tournament.
• This will be Virginia Tech’s fourth appearance in the ACC title game in eight seasons. Tech is 2-1 in the ACC title game, winning in 2007 and 2008 and losing in 2005, its first season in the league.
• This will be Tech’s eighth appearance in a conference championship game in 17 seasons. Tech played for the Atlantic 10 title game three times (1998, 1999, 2000), once in the Big East (2002) and now this is the fourth time in the ACC (2005, 2007, 2008, 2012).
• This will be the third time the two Techs will play for the ACC title. Georgia Tech won 1-0 in 2005 (College Park, Md) and Virginia Tech won 2-0 in 2007 (Tallahassee, Fla.).
• The wins this weekend almost certainly puts Virginia Tech in the NCAA Tournament. With an RPI of 31 coming into this weekend and now 40 wins, Tech is positioned to make its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2008 when it advanced to the Women’s College World Series behind National Player of the Year Angela Tincher.
• Today’s win gave Tech its seventh 40-win season in the program’s 17-year history.
• Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are two of just five Division I softball programs with “Tech” in their school names. The other three are Texas Tech, Tennessee Tech and Louisiana Tech.
For updates on Virginia Tech softball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Softball).