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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame wins 6th-straight game with sweep of Pittsburgh

The Notre Dame softball team continued its recent winning ways on a road trip to play conference foe Pittsburgh, taking all three games from the Panthers (9-41, 4-17 ACC) and winning their sixth-straight game. While Pittsburgh has struggled this year, the Irish (32-15, 15-6) still managed to dominate both games in a good, all-around showing from the team.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish senior infielder Cait Brooks swings at a pitch during Notre Dame’s 8-0 win over IUPUI on April 2 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

In game one Saturday, the Irish left no doubt. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a pair of RBI singles from junior infielder Katie Marino and senior infielder Cait Brooks. Marino drove in her 38th run, and Brooks belted her team-leading 49th RBI of the year. Pitt managed to score one in the bottom half of the opening frame off of freshman righty Payton Tidd.

The Irish doubled down on their scoring in the second, bringing two more runners to the plate thanks to a single from senior outfielder Ali Wester and another Marino RBI on a ground out to first. Both sides’ bats were briefly silent during a scoreless third, but Notre Dame sent two balls over the fence — a solo shot from Marino and a two-run homer from senior infielder Melissa Rochford — bringing the score up to 7-1. Again, Pitt mustered up a run in response but fell short of getting within striking distance.

The Irish pitching managed to shut the door there, limiting the Panthers to a total of two runs on six hits in another strong outing from what has been a very consistent staff this season. Tidd added another win to her 20-6 record on the year. Notre Dame added five insurance runs in the seventh to close out the game, highlighted by a Brooks grand slam, which broke the single-season Irish home run record with her 18th of the year. Sophomore Morgan Ryan came in to finish the game in the bottom of the seventh and made quick work of Pitt, wrapping up a 12-2 victory.

Notre Dame’s offense was not quite as productive Sunday but still put up five runs in a much closer game than the day before. Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead after a leadoff home run by senior infielder Olivia Gray and an RBI single from senior infielder Alexis Solak, but the team would not bring another runner home as Notre Dame sophomore right-hander Alexis Holloway settled into the game.

However, the Irish could not manage to score themselves early on in the game, remaining scoreless until the fourth inning, but they found offense in an unlikely place. Holloway bunted home a run on a chaotic play, bringing the Irish within a run of the Panthers. Notre Dame finally found what it had been looking for in the top of the fifth. A Pitt error brought in a run, and senior infielder MK Bonamy gave her team a commanding 5-2 lead with a three-run blast over the right center field wall. Tidd entered the game in relief and continued her success from the Saturday game — she did not let the Panthers score again, and the score remained the same as the Irish took game two.

Notre Dame aimed for the sweep when it took on Pitt for a third-consecutive day Monday. The game proceeded similarly to Sunday’s game, with both teams struggling to get their offenses going in the early innings. Rochford broke the scoreless tie for the Irish with an RBI single in the top of the third. A pair of singles from Marino and Brooks gave Notre Dame a 3-0 lead in the next inning, and sophomore outfielder Abby Sweet homered to lead off the fifth inning.

The Panthers pushed across an unearned run in the next half-inning, but the Irish responded with a run driven in by Rochford. The score stayed 5-1 for the rest of the game, giving Tidd — who was back on the mound starting for Notre Dame — a complete-game win with no earned runs.

The Irish will face off at home against Detroit Mercy in a Wednesday matchup as they take a break from conference play, with first pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m. They will look to extend their win streak to seven as they head into the postseason as ACC championship hopefuls.