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No. 21 Pitt softball team swept in ACC opener at North Carolina

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Junior Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) drove in five runs at North Carolina on Sunday, but it wasn't enough for Pitt to avoid a three-game sweep. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Junior Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) drove in five runs at North Carolina on Sunday, but it wasn't enough for Pitt to avoid a three-game sweep. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Junior Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) drove in five runs at North Carolina on Sunday, but it wasn't enough for Pitt to avoid a three-game sweep. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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The Pitt softball team’s momentum has evaporated after a remarkable start to the season.

The No. 21 Panthers (12-5 overall, 0-3 ACC) opened up conference play over the weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they suffered a three-game sweep against the North Carolina Tar Heels (15-4 overall, 3-0 ACC). North Carolina won the series opener Friday night, 5-1, then won 6-2 Saturday afternoon. Pitt jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the series finale Sunday, but the Tar Heels came roaring back for an 8-7 extra-innings win.

Game one

Junior pitcher Kayla Harris started game one on Friday in her first appearance since tossing a perfect game vs. Southeastern Louisiana Feb. 26. Harris didn’t allow any runs vs. UNC, but she gave up six hits and failed to make it out of the second inning.

Sophomore second baseman Alexis Solak got the Panthers on the board first with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, but that would be the team’s only run of the game.

Pitt head coach Holly Aprile turned to first-year pitcher Brittany Knight out of the bullpen with two outs in the bottom of the second, and Knight escaped the inning without giving up a run. But the Tar Heels tied the game in the third inning on third baseman Berlynne Delamora’s solo home run.

UNC erupted for three more runs in the fifth, then pitcher Brittany Pickett added a solo homer in the sixth to seal a 5-1 win and hand Knight the first loss of her college career.

Game two

The Panthers struggled at the plate again on Saturday, although they did tally seven hits to only six for UNC. But the Tar Heels launched a pair of home runs for the second game in a row, turning their six hits into six runs.

Harris made her second start in a row for Pitt, and things didn’t go much better than the day before. This time she lasted three innings, but gave up five earned runs to suffer her second loss of the season.

UNC scored first with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the first inning, then added onto its lead in the third with a solo home run by shortstop Taylor Wike. A two-run blast in the fourth by catcher Katie Bailiff gave the Tar Heels a 5-0 lead, and they held on the rest of the way for a 6-2 win.

Game three

The Panthers’ bats exploded for 13 hits in the series finale on Sunday, more than their 10 hits combined in the first two games. But it still wasn’t enough to pick up their first ACC win of 2017.

Junior slugger Giorgiana Zeremenko got things going for Pitt with a three-run home run in the top of the first inning. Pinch-hitter Alexee Haynes then tacked on a two-run double in the top of the second to make it a 5-0 Panthers lead.

Pickett got UNC on the board with her second solo homer of the weekend in the bottom of the third inning. But Pitt quickly answered with a pair in the top of the fourth on Zeremenko’s two-run double to make it 7-1.

The Tar Heels struck back with six runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game, will all six runs coming with two outs. After three scoreless innings, Bailiff delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give UNC an 8-7 win and series sweep.

The Panthers will resume non-conference play at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, for the program’s first-ever matchup against the Elon Phoenix in Elon, North Carolina.

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No. 21 Pitt softball team swept in ACC opener at North Carolina