Softball

Syracuse’s AnnaMarie Gatti neutralizes North Carolina’s bats despite season-high eight walks in 3-1 win

Jordan Phelps | Staff Photogarapher

AnnaMarie Gatti used her changeup and her drop ball to get UNC to roll over a lot of ground balls in the victory.

AnnaMarie Gatti threw both her hands up in the air, signaling for a meeting at the mound. After three consecutive balls, one to walk a batter, and the other two to fall behind in the count, the right-hander needed a break.

But, the next six pitches were all off the plate as well, loading the bases.

“Typical me I can’t make it easy on myself.” Gatti said. “I just knew I had to get out of it and trust my defense. Sometimes I forget that I have other people back there with me and then it’s cool to hear the teammates say we are out here.”

Gatti’s teammates willed their pitcher.

“C’mon Anna, let’s go kid!” Faith Cain cheered from first base.

“You got this!” Alicia Hansen said from over Gatti’s left shoulder at second base.

On the next pitch, Gatti hit her spot. North Carolina’s Brittany Pickett grounded out to third base ending the inning without a run scored.

The right-hander battled through a season-high eight walks to allow just one run in a 3-1 victory. In her last start on Tuesday against Niagara, the junior pitched a complete game shutout. On Saturday, Gatti fell one out short of the complete game. This time the win came against the No. 2 team in the ACC. Syracuse’s (26-16, 7-9 Atlantic Coast) win over North Carolina (35-13, 13-6) marks only the second time all season it has defeated an opponent ranked higher in the conference. Both of those wins have come with Gatti in the circle.

“She knew the size of this game and she the importance of this weekend.” Syracuse head coach Mike Bosch said. “It’s a couple good outings for her and hopefully moving forward we can use that.”

North Carolina’s lone run came in the second inning. Following two strikeouts to start the inning, Gatti faltered. Her drop ball hung in the middle of the plate and North Carolina’s Katelyn Shifflett mashed the ball over the fence in left field.

As Shifflett rounded the bases, Gatti kept her eyes on home plate. She met with catcher Olivia Martinez and shifted focus to the next batter.

“Normally at the beginning of the season my heart would have been racing.” Gatti said. “I would have been thinking it’s over they are gonna pull me … I told (Martinez) I wanted to attack the next batter.”

Gatti’s next three pitches all landed for called strikes. The first one curved towards the inside, the second curved towards the outside corner, and the final pitch landed just above the bottom of the strike zone. Three different looking pitches, landing in different areas on the plate closed out the inning with the strikeout.

The looking strikeout was Gatti’s second of the inning. Mixing in an off-speed changeup complimented her drop-ball curves, keeping UNC batters guessing. She only recorded four strikeouts, but it was UNC’s inability to keep the ball off the ground that decided its fate.

In the fourth inning, North Carolina’s Katie Bailiff barely contacted an outside breaking ball. Gatti scooped up the dribbling ball and stared at Bailiff before making the easy throw to first. Bailiff was the second of three consecutive North Carolina batters to ground out in the inning.

“Her changeup was working really well in keeping them off balance,” Martinez said. “The changeup worked well with her drop because they never knew when to expect the changeup. You could see them getting on their front foot and they didn’t have much power when that changeup came in.”

The walks piled up in the final frame as well. Clinging to a two-run lead, Bosch didn’t allow Gatti to work out of the bases loaded situation. With a lefty batter at the plate, Bosch preferred to bring a left-handed pitcher.

Alexa Romero struck out Pickett to end the game. Gatti was the first player out of the dugout. She smiled and congratulated her teammate. She didn’t finish the game, but she did more than her fair share.

“Sometimes you let people work through things and they get better by that.” Bosch said. “I thought she grinded her way through it to get some good outs. It’s maturity. It’s a growth.”

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