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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Irish split College Challenge 2-2, picking up key win over South Carolina

Notre Dame narrowly missed out on the top 25 in the latest rankings, so coming into this weekend’s appearance at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, it knew it had something to prove. After dropping a Thursday night matchup with Duke, 7-3, the Irish (2-2) prepared for No. 22 Liberty on Friday afternoon, and a pair of daunting Saturday matchups against No. 9 South Carolina and No. 3 Washington. The Irish held their ground among some of the best competition college softball has to offer, finishing out the weekend 2-2, with wins against Liberty (1-4), and more impressively, a tight 3-2 upset against Washington (4-1) — their second loss coming at the hands of South Carolina (3-2), 4-7.

The first Notre Dame victory of the season came Friday night from stellar pitching from sophomore Morgan Ryan and freshman Payton Tidd; the pair combined to allow six hits and two walks. The 4-1 win featured six hits for each team, but a second inning first baseman MK Bonamy three-run home run was the difference maker. The Irish took the three-run lead and added a cushion off of a single by senior third baseman Melissa Rochford in the third to make it 4-0. Liberty remained shut down by Ryan until the sixth inning, when Liberty junior infielder Amber Bishop sent a ball over the fence to deep right center field, but that proved to be the only offense the Flames could muster as Tidd closed the game for a 4-1 final.

The next day, the Irish faced off against South Carolina in a solid matchup, featuring sophomore Alexis Holloway starting in the circle for Notre Dame, countered by senior Dixie Raley for the Gamecocks. The game started with a bang for Notre Dame, featuring three first-inning runs on a Katie Marino single followed by a two-run blast by Cait Brooks, and Holloway was able to contain the South Carolina lineup until midway through the game, when she was taken deep by redshirt-junior infielder Kenzi Maguire in the third and junior infielder Mackenzie Boesel in the fourth, tying the game at three. The Gamecocks’ offense proved too much for the Irish in the seventh, however, when Tidd, the freshman closer, was tagged for three late runs, breaking an earlier 4-4 tie to make it 7-4 — a heartbreaking finish to a tight game for the underdog Irish.

Following the tough loss to the Gamecocks, the Irish got the performance they needed from the weekend against a heavily favored Washington team, offering a glimpse into the potential of the team. The game featured eight innings of action, and the Irish got two huge breaks down the stretch; one off of the bat of Bonamy, and the other from an incorrect substitution from the Huskies that granted Notre Dame the final out of a the contest. The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but the Irish battled back to tie it in the sixth, forcing extra innings. Bonamy singled through the right side to take the lead, and the game ended in a Notre Dame win, 3-2.

The Irish will have a brief break before traveling south to Clearwater, Florida, for the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational this Thursday. Their first matchup will be against Oklahoma, scheduled for 7 p.m.