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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame battles tough competition at Marry Nutter Collegiate Classic

Against a stacked schedule, Notre Dame lost four out of its five games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California.

The Irish (7-7) fell to No. 12 Auburn and No. 7 Texas A&M on Thursday and No. 1 Washington and San Jose State before rebounding Sunday to beat St. John’s 7-1.

“I don’t think we played consistent softball,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “When you’re in your first 20 games of the year, you’re trying to figure out things that work for your team and things that don’t.

“We didn’t show a consistent presence at all last weekend. We had a lot of distractions that got in the way and we weren’t playing our game at all.”

One area that hurt the Irish was fielding, Gumpf said. The Irish committed seven errors in their fives games over the course of the weekend, including three errors in their 6-2 loss to Auburn.

“I think the biggest thing for us is playing solid defense,” Gumpf said. “I think if you look at the big picture of last weekend, our defense really let us down because things could have been a lot different. I think once we get comfortable defensively, that changes everything.”

Friday’s game against Washington was a tough one, as the Irish lost 8-0 in five innings. But against the Aggies (12-2) and the Tigers (17-2), Notre Dame was competitive. Against Auburn, Notre Dame trailed early, but managed to bring the game to within one run at 3-2, before the Tigers exploded for a three-run fifth inning to put the game away.

Against Texas A&M, the Irish found themselves down 3-0, but fought back to 3-3 thanks to RBIs from junior Cait Brooks and junior infielder MK Bonamy. The Irish eventually lost, however, 5-3.

Despite a rough start to the weekend, the Irish were able to rebound on Sunday, dominating St. John’s 7-1. In the game, freshman pitcher Alexis Holloway threw a complete game — her sixth on the season — and allowed just three hits in the entire game.

“That was good to see that we finally rebounded a little,” Gumpf said. “And I’m very pumped that we were able to rebound after some tough losses. If I take something out of the weekend, it was the way we rebounded.”

Moving on from a couple of tough outings, Gumpf said the message to her team will remain the same.

“The biggest message for the team doesn’t change,” Gumpf said. ”Trying to put together a team that can win in two out of the three categories. When we do that, we win ball games.”

One player who could help the Irish get back on track is junior centerfielder Ali Wester. Wester was limited in Notre Dame’s first few weeks of play due to injury, but worked her way back into the lineup this weekend. Wester picked up six hits on the trip, including a perfect four hits in four at-bats against Texas A&M.

Looking ahead, the Irish have their final extended non-conference action of the season at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic this upcoming weekend in Kissimmee, Florida. There, the Irish schedule looks a little more manageable, as it will be the first event of the season where the Irish will not face a ranked opponent.

“I think the schedule in Florida allows us to get in a good place,” Gumpf said. “We’re playing some good teams, but not in the top 10. It’ll be nice to see what we can do against the rest of the country.”

Notre Dame will start action in the Citrus Classic on Friday against UMass and Fordham, before taking on Binghamton, FIU and Robert Morris over the course of the weekend.