Winthrop was cancelled by The Danielle Spaulding Show.
North Carolina's sophomore pitcher/first baseman saved the No. 14 Tar Heels' first game over the Eagles and won the second as UNC swept a doubleheader at Terry Field on Wednesday, 4-3 and 2-0. Spaulding struck out three in two perfect innings to lock down Game 1. She whiffed nine Eagles in Game 2, twirling a complete-game gem as Winthrop fell to 30-17.
Spaulding also chipped in a combined three hits, including a solo home run in Game 2 that gave UNC (47-8-1) all the room it needed. The Tar Heels bused back to Chapel Hill on the cusp of clinching a host site for an NCAA Regional. The Eagles, wanting a big win or two before heading to Liberty for a crucial series on Friday, had to settle for two games of taking a Top 15 team to the wire.
"She's one of the best in the country," Winthrop coach Mark Cooke said of Spaulding. "That's a good team over there, but I thought we held our own with them.
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"The kids were excited that North Carolina comes here, but our real big games are on the horizon."
Beating the Tar Heels was desirable, but unnecessary. As Cooke pointed out, Winthrop's biggest games this week are against the Flames -- two wins earn the Eagles their second straight Big South Conference regular-season championship.
Winthrop didn't throw in the towel against UNC, but didn't feel too depressed about losing.
"You always want to win, naturally, but we put up two really good games," said Tessa Thomas, who had three hits on the day. "I'm pretty sure we're just looking to carry that momentum into the weekend."
Starter Megan Evans (15-6) struggled in Game 1, walking three and giving up five hits in four innings. The first walk, leading off the second inning, came around when Jennifer Jacobs belted a two-run shot down the right-field line and it was 4-1 before the Eagles regrouped.
A two-on, no-out rally in the sixth yielded two runs to cut the deficit to 4-3, but Lisa Norris (17-3) wiggled out of the frame with no further damage. Spaulding subbed in from first base and slammed the door, striking out three of her six batters.
Spaulding (14-2) stayed in the circle in Game 2, giving up a hit to Lisa Kingsmore in the first inning but watching catcher Brittany McKinney gun Kingsmore trying to steal immediately after. The Eagles kept putting runners on, but couldn't get anything started. Spaulding's homer and an error from Winthrop's Stephanie Reid plated two Tar Heel runs.
Again, the Eagles rallied in the sixth, putting two on with one out. But Spaulding worked past fatigue to get Mallory Hogan on a swinging third strike and got out of trouble with a groundout.
Looking weary in the seventh, Spaulding retired pinch-hitters Katie Smith and Veronica Berrie before facing Kasey West. Spaulding worked a full count, then blew another pitch past West's lunging bat for her final strikeout.
"She's something like second or third in the nation in strikeouts," Cooke said. "Any mistakes you make, they magnify. But we weren't intimidated ... we just got beat by a couple of hanging pitches."
"It was a big opportunity, we really wanted it," said Cari Wooldridge (13-9), who took the loss in Game 2. "But I think it's a really good opportunity to play a good team before we go into Liberty this weekend, get us ready for conference play again."