The Notre Dame softball team came back from Tallahassee, Florida this weekend after their first three games of conference play against No. 3 Florida State. Despite heading back to South Bend with a 1-2 record on the weekend and having broken their nine-game win streak, the unranked Irish again showed they have the capacity to play with any team they come across — an encouraging sign from the now 16-9 team on the brink of a top-25 ranking.
Coming into the weekend, Florida State (29-3, 2-1 ACC) was 25-2 and recently dropped from their No. 1 ranking — posing as a clear challenge for the Irish. On Friday, the underdogs came out of the gate quickly, scoring in the top of the first off of a fielder’s choice by senior third baseman Melissa Rochford. However, that accounted for the entirety of Notre Dame’s offense, as Florida State pitchers Meghan King and Kathryn Sandercock combined to allow only three hits. Notre Dame pitchers Alexis Holloway and Morgan Ryan could not silence the Seminole bats, who erupted for 10 hits and five walks. With the assistance of two Notre Dame fielding errors, Florida State put up 11 runs in three innings, marking a dominant victory for the heavily favored Seminole team.
The second game of the weekend, however, was an entirely different story. Florida State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first off of a two-run shot to center field by sophomore third baseman Sydney Sherrill, but freshman pitcher Payton Tidd managed to control the damage, and did not allow another run until the bottom of the sixth. Tidd's performance gave the Irish plenty of time to tie the game in the fourth inning on a two-run blast from senior Caitlyn Brooks (the designated player for the game). Notre Dame then took the lead in the fifth, as freshman right fielder Emma Clark scored on a wild pitch. The Irish then added insurance runs by way of sophomore center fielder Abby Sweet’s 3 RBI performance, and an RBI single by senior first baseman MK Bonamy in the 7th. The Seminoles responded in the 6th and 7th, putting up a run in each inning, but Tidd shut the door on the way to a complete game victory in a big conference upset for Notre Dame.
The third game had clear parallels to the Irish’s performance on Friday, as a dominant performance by Florida State star pitcher Meghan King absolutely devastated Notre Dame's offense. King was one error away from a perfect game, allowing no hits or walks for the entire game, and struck out three over a complete game performance. Irish sophomore slingers Morgan Ryan and Alexis Holloway, along with freshman Payton Tidd all tried to counter King, but ultimately to no avail as Florida State put up five runs for the game. The game ended 5-0, a frustrating regression from the unlikely victory a day earlier, but an understandable one as King tossed her third career no-hitter.
The Fighting Irish follow up their weekend in Florida with their home opener against Louisville (19-8) as part of a three-game series at Melissa Cook Stadium. Notre Dame looks to continue the same consistency they showed during their nine-game win streak before their loss to Florida State, and also add valuable conference wins to their resume. The favored Irish will see a Louisville team that has played a marginally weaker schedule, but has feasted on lesser opponents as of late — the Cardinals have ended four games in the last two weeks after five innings after being up by more than 10 runs. Notre Dame could be challenged by an offense that bats a collective .296 and averages nearly six runs per game, but as they proved this weekend, this Notre Dame softball team does not back away from any challenge.