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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Irish hope to continue winning ways in final home series vs. Georgia Tech

Notre Dame heads into its final games of the regular season, facing Georgia Tech in a home series this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish (32-15, 15-6 ACC) are in position to win the ACC Atlantic regular season title with at least two wins and a few Florida State losses in their weekend series at Syracuse. The Irish are riding high, currently on a seven-game ACC win streak, and have won four-straight series against ACC opponents Boston College, NC State, Virginia and Pitt. All but the NC State series were sweeps for the squad as well. Softball teams hope to put it all together at the end of the year, and the Irish look to add to their momentum and cap off a strong regular season showing to prepare for ACC Tournament play.

Georgia Tech (30-23, 11-10 ACC) currently sit at third place in the ACC coastal division and sixth overall in the conference. The Yellow Jackets are riding high as well, having just swept Syracuse in this past weekend’s series in Atlanta. They too look to carry their momentum into postseason play, setting the scene for an exciting series.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Notre Dame junior Alexis Bazos heads for the bases during a game against IUPUI in Melissa Cook Stadium on April 2.

The Irish will look to rely on their main producers this weekend, as well as send the seniors off in their final home series at Melissa Cook Stadium. Expect freshman pitcher Payton Tidd to pitch in both the Friday and Sunday games. Tidd looks to add to her stellar freshman campaign, where she is 22-6 on the year with a 2.53 ERA. She will look to contain sophomore second baseman Breanna Roper, who leads the Yellow Jackets with 181 at-bats and a .381 batting average, as well as junior right fielder Crosby Huckabay, who is third on the team in slugging percentage at .604 but leads the Yellow Jackets with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs.

From the offensive side, the Irish have an array of talented batters that have led to the team being ranked 15th nationally in team batting average, 28th in scoring, 36th in slugging percentage and 46th in home runs per game. Senior designated player Cait Brooks leads the charge for the Irish offense. Brooks has a .419 batting average and a .899 slugging percentage, the latter of which places her at ninth in all of college softball. Brooks’ 18 home runs set the Notre Dame single-season home run record and is good for 11th nationally. She also leads the team in RBIs with 50 and is 25th in the nation with a .521 on base percentage. She will look to add more in her final games at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Senior left fielder Ali Wester will also be likely to contribute at the plate in her final home games as well. Wester has a .417 batting average on the year, second only to Brooks. While Wester does not slug like Brooks does at .482%, she consistently makes contact with the ball and gets on base, racking up a team-leading 70 hits on the year in 47 games, good for seventh nationally. Junior second baseman Katie Marino can also produce at the plate. While Brooks leads the team in batting average and in on-base percentage, Marino is second in the team in both slugging and on-base percentage, with .649 and .473, respectively.

The other three seniors on the squad — catcher Maddie McCracken, first baseman MK Bonamy and third baseman Melissa Rochford — also play pivotal roles in the team’s success. McCracken has played backup at catcher this season but in limited playing time has contributed solidly. Bonamy, while sixth in the team in batting average at .326%, can get on base and hit with power, posting a .519 slugging percentage and .424 on-base percentage, good for third and fourth best on the team, respectively. Rochford, while not standing out among her teammates in terms of offense, is still a solid contributor with a .327 batting average, a .456 slugging percentage and a .381 on-base percentage.

All the seniors will hope to play well and have a memorable last home series at Melissa Cook Stadium. Game times are scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at noon.