#39 North Carolina Softball 2015 Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels

Overall Rank: #39
Conference Rank: #4 ACC
#39 North Carolina Softball 2015 Preview
North Carolina Team Page


It was a mixed bag of results for North Carolina last season, as the Tar Heels dropped out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a 9-1 loss to Florida State. That left North Carolina with a 24-26 overall record, the first time the Tar Heels were below .500 since 1997. Inside the ACC, the Tar Heels were 14-11, which was a much better record. Five games in April were canceled due to weather issues, which no doubt left North Carolina at a disadvantage. The loss of North Carolina’s top pitcher will hurt the Tar Heels somewhat, but the team will return a plethora of top hitters so that will make things a little bit easier in Chapel Hill. Will North Carolina climb back over .500 and make its way to the NCAA tournament?

2014: 24-26, 14-11
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: Donna J. Papa

Field Players:
The top four hitters return to the Tar Heel lineup, led by outfielder Aquilla Mateen. Mateen hit .412 and had no pop in her bat, but her 19 stolen bases provided an element of speed that North Carolina will need in 2015 to combat higher-power clubs. First baseman Jenna Kelly (.338 average, 11 home runs, 39 runs batted in) is also back and brings a high average and high power. Junior Kristen Brown (.335-12-45) and middle infielder Erin Satterfield (.306) are also back for more in 2015. Catcher Amber Parrish drilled 15 homers in 2014, so the Tar Heels have most of their power back. Pitcher Kendra Lynch, a sophomore, also plays outfield and had seven homers last year. The team definitely has a lot of pop, with 60 homers last year, but it doesn’t have a lot of speed besides Mateen. Of the 35 stolen bases North Carolina had a year ago, Mateen had over half of them.

This could be a problem area for North Carolina. Lori Spingola graduated and took with her 18 wins, 161 strikeouts and a 3.67 earned run average. Ashley Bone and Lauren Batten are also gone. Lynch can pitch but she went 1-6 with a 5.65 ERA and a 24/28 walk/strikeout ratio. The bigger likelihood for North Carolina is one of several freshmen will emerge as the team’s top pitcher. Kaylee Carlson and Sydney Matzko were heavily recruited as two of the top 50 seniors in the country, and either one could end up in the circle for a long period of time. It will be trial by fire, but North Carolina may have no choice.

Who to Watch:
Matzko went 23-1 as a junior in Torrington, Connecticut with a 0.27 ERA and a staggering 345 strikeouts. It is no guarantee this success will translate to the college level, but the Tar Heels’ impoverished pitching ranks may force Papa to use her more often. Matzko has already seen action in the team’s exhibition schedule this fall, so Papa may be thinking the same thing when it comes to restocking her pitching ranks. If Matzko is half as impressive at the college level as she was in high school, the Tar Heels could jump up in the standings.

Final Projection:
A lot of what happens to North Carolina this year depends on how well the pitching gels. Hitting-wise, the Tar Heels are doing fine. They have most of the home-run power back from a year ago, and Mateen’s speed on the base paths gives North Carolina some oomph in the stolen-base game. Early contests against Stanford and Oregon, two strong Pac-12 Conference programs, will give tough tests to the Tar Heels. After that, the non-conference schedule doesn’t look too tough so the question is how quickly will North Carolina be prepared for what happens. The Tar Heels suffered their first losing season in 17 years last spring, and no one wants to see back-to-back under-.500 campaigns.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Kristen Brown, IF, 158
Hits: Aquilla Mateen, OF, 63
Home Runs: Amber Parrish, IF, 15
RBIs: Kristen Brown, IF, 45
Runs: Kristen Brown, IF, 41
Stolen Bases: Aquilla Mateen, OF, 19

Wins: Kendra Lynch, P/OF, 1
Innings Pitched: Kendra Lynch, P/OF, 52
Strikeouts: Kendra Lynch, P/OF, 28
Complete Games: Kendra Lynch, P/OF, 1

Madness 2015 Draft Rankings:
#11 Kaylee Carlson
#32 Sydney Matzko


See All Softball Top 44 Previews