The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is known for many things. A legendary basketball program that bred such international stars as Michael Jordan and James Worthy tops the list. While there’s no Jordan on Donna Papa’s softball diamond, recently-graduated senior Kendra Lynch’s final season came about as close as a Tar Heel softballer has gotten.
For the majority of her career, Lynch spent a significant amount of time dividing her interests between the pitching circle and her spot in the Tar Heel batting order. In 2016, she pitched more than three-fourths of her team’s innings, setting a program single-season record with fifty-three appearances and amassing more than 300 innings of work. (Her offensive production hardly suffered as she put up career-highs in the circle; she also matched her then-career highs with twelve home runs and a .321 batting average).
“I definitely think it helps me being both a pitcher and hitter,” Lynch told me in an interview earlier this year. “I try to take what I know on the mound and use it to my advantage at the plate. I think it helps me recognize spins on the ball better and anticipate certain pitches in certain situations”
After earning all-conference first-team honors, and entering her swan song season, Lynch could cement her place in Tar Heel legend or be just a “one-hit” wonder, so to speak. As her final season in powder blue wore on, the former option became the clear answer.
Hot from the start of her senior year, including a fourteen-game hitting streak in the early part of the year, Lynch’s bat often looked like a bolt of lightning as she stroked balls left and right, leaving nearly two-dozen of them over the outfield fence. The senior star ended the season with sixty-eight RBIs, nearly doubling her previous single-season career high.
While her power numbers surely put on a show, Lynch also came through for her team when the pressure was on, hitting over .400 with runners on base in scoring position and driving in twenty-eight two-out runs.
Though she tossed nearly 100 innings from the circle, earning eleven wins on the season, Lynch’s effect on the Tar Heels’ pitching staff could also be felt in a mentoring role over the youthful staff that included freshmen Brittany Pickett, a freshman of the year top ten finalist, and Kelynn Daly.
“I want to be remembered for being the hardest worker,” Lynch shared with me in the midst of her final campaign. Indeed, after working her way up from a .245-hitting freshman to an all-American senior, the name Kendra Lynch is not one that will soon be forgotten on Chapel Hill.