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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Irish drop final home series against Florida State 2-1

In their final regular season matchup, the Irish took on Florida State in a three-game series this weekend. The Seminoles (41-10, 18-3 ACC), who currently lead the ACC standings, returned to Melissa Cook Stadium for the first time since routing the Irish (31-20, 13-10) last March.

Florida State came out of the dugout ready to play, scoring a run in the opening inning off a sequence of two walks and a single that loaded the bases. A single over second base scored Seminole senior third baseman Jessie Warren to put Florida State up 1-0. Warren would continue to help build their lead with five runs over the next two innings behind a Notre Dame error and a subsequent single. With two quick outs by the Irish in the second, the Seminoles run appeared to be coming to an end. However, Florida State was able to load the bases and a hit by Warren through the legs of Irish senior shortstop Morgan Reed plated another Seminole runner. The Seminoles continued to distance themselves by loading the bases before scoring two runners on a single. Warren continued to give the Irish fielders trouble in the third by bringing runners home from second and third, making the score 4-0. 

“We had some really good at bats but we realized how poorly we played at times to give them a lot of runs,” head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We have to focus on the things we’re doing well.”

The Irish were able to slow Florida State's momentum in the latter half of the opening matchup, holding the Seminoles scoreless through the fourth and fifth. On the other side, while at-bat in the fifth inning, sophomore Alexis Bazos sustained a wrist injury on a hit-by-pitch. The right fielder wouldn’t return to the series. After series of sloppy plays, Notre Dame capitalized on a Florida State error to score freshman pitcher Alexis Holloway. Despite holding them to only three runs in the last four innings, the Irish were unable to recover from the early deficit, only registering one more run before losing 9-2. 

After the game Gumpf said her focus was on moving on.

“I think we could give them a much better ball game than we did tonight.”

In the mid-series matchup on Saturday, the Irish returned behind senior Katie Beriont. The left-handed pitcher contained the Seminole batters at first before giving up six runs in the top of the second inning. The Irish continued to struggle up the middle, as three of four RBI hits bounced over second base into the center field. Gumpf responded by subbing junior Cait Brooks in at the mound to finish out the remainder of the game. 

Assistant head coach Kris Ganeff said Brooks has done a really good job as a closer throughout the season.

“[Brooks] will come in and stop the bleeding,” she said.

Effective pitching, along with runs by senior right fielder Sara White and Cait Brooks on a wild pitch in the third and fourth innings, respectively, allowed the Irish to inch their way back into the game. Although their run quickly came to end, as the Seminoles responded with a batting clinic of their own, tallying five runs to close out the game led off by Warren. With the bases loaded, she hit a double against the fence over freshman centerfielder Abby Sweet to clear the bases. Despite getting runners on second, the Irish failed to capitalize and finished the game in six innings. 

Ganeff said the Seminoles are the empitome of what you expect to play in a top-10 team.

“When you’re playing a team like that there is no margin for error,” she said. “Unfortunately, we’re putting base runners on with free-bees, making errors, just not playing to the level you need to play when you’re playing a top-10 team in the country. They haven’t seen us a nearly our best. We’ve been on our heels when we get down early so tomorrow our goal is we have to keep it close. That’s your opportunity”

Despite dropping the first two matchups, Ganeff said the team needed to get their confidence back heading into Sunday’s Senior Day game. Trying to keep the game close every inning, the Irish took their first lead in the bottom of the second. After Brooks advanced to second on a fielding error and continuing on to third on a sacrafice bunt, sophomore second baseman Katie Marino fired to centerfield to bring Brooks home and match the Seminoles run earlier in the inning. Notre Dame clinched the lead on the follow at-bat when White singled up the middle as Marino sprinted around third before narrowly being called safe at home.

Gumpf said that inning changed the tide for the Irish.

“They gave us a couple runners and we took advantage,” she said. 

“Sara’s been the true definition of a utility player…playing every position except for catcher. Whenever that void is there she fills that role,” Ganeff said of the senior.

The game eventually cooled as the Irish continued to play sound defense against the Seminoles, who left all six runners on base over the next three innings and maintaining a 2-1 lead. Later, in the top of the sixth, the Seminoles had the opportunity to overtake the Irish. With the bases loaded, Holloway struck out junior first baseman Carsyn Gordon to save the Irish another inning. Notre Dame used that momentum to earn an insurance run when junior third baseman Melissa Rochord earned an RBI to score Sweet with two outs on the board. 

With a two-run cushion, Holloway struck out two batters and walked one, before clinching the victory with a solid strikeout against junior shortstop Cali Harrod. 

Winning the final matchup allowed the three seniors to end their home careers on a high note and set the Irish up for the postseason. 

Gumpf credited the senior crew for building the culture of the program but stressed that their focus remains on the next game.

“Our senior class … [has] been a group that’s been pretty steady and consistent for us over their entire careers,” Ganeff said. “They’re the type of athletes that never get too high or too low which is good because it keeps the team at a pace that you want them to be. It keeps the real.”

The Irish are currently waiting to see where they will be seeded in the ACC Championship as their opponents wrap up play . They’ll head to Atlanta, Georgia for the ACC Championships scheduled for May 9-12.