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Saturday, Apr 28, 2018 at 7:20 pm

Seniors lead Syracuse past UNC on Senior Day

By Sam Rothman

Softball Beat Reporter

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Going into the bottom of the seventh inning in its matchup against North Carolina (28-25, 15-8 ACC) Saturday, it was a scoreless game. But after falling 5-1 on Friday, the Orange sought revenge on its senior day. With the home field advantage, Syracuse (28-19, 9-12 ACC) was determined to end the game in regulation.

“It always helps to be the home team because you know once you’ve held them, you have that opportunity to have that walk-off,” said Head Coach Mike Bosch.

And the Orange wasted no time to take advantage of that opportunity. Rachel Burkhardt, a senior, hit the ball out of the park for the walk-off home run and the 1-0 victory. With her family and friends cheering her on in the stands, it was the perfect ending to the senior’s final conference home game of the season.

“Rachel has been one of my best friends for four years here and for her to have the walk-off in the bottom of the seventh, it couldn’t have happened any better,” said senior pitcher AnnaMarie Gatti. “I couldn’t have planned out this day any more perfect.”

But, the home run wasn’t what stood out to the outfielder.

“The home run wasn’t really the career moment,” said Burkhardt. “I think it was after the game and seeing everyone connected together and all smiling. That’s the moment I am going to stick with forever.”

Burkhardt wasn’t the only senior who performed well for the Orange. Sammy Fernandez had a crucial tag in the sixth inning to catch UNC outfielder Destiny DeBerry stealing. But, it all started with freshman Michala Maciolek. The catcher threw a perfect strike straight to Fernandez at second to preserve the shutout.

“In my eyes, that was probably the best play of the game,” said Fernandez. “[Maciolek] threw a perfect ball so I didn’t even have to move my glove. For a freshman to step up on senior day, it was awesome.” 

Senior Anna Marie Gatti was lights out in the circle, pitching a complete game shutout with five strikeouts. On Friday, UNC pitcher Brittany Pickett hit a three-run home run that led her team to victory. On Saturday, the sophomore was up to bat in the top of the seventh where she faced a different outcome. Gatti struck out the pitcher to give her team the chance to win it in the bottom of the inning.

“I pulled the seniors aside before the game and I said, ‘You know all six of you are going to be in the lineup today,’” said Bosch. “It’s senior day, so you can make or break what is going to happen on the field. And they did. Anna [Gatti] threw the shutout, Rachel [Burkhardt] came up with the big hit and Sammy [Fernandez] made great plays defensively. They all contributed in some way shape or form in the win.”

@samrothman_ | sbrothma@syr.edu