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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Coming off Stinger Classic, Irish head into Syracuse, Duke weekend

Notre Dame’s softball team (2-1) is coming off a split weekend at the Stinger Classic in Montgomery Ala. The Irish won 13-0 and 9-0 against the Alabama State Hornets (0-4) and the North Alabama Lions (1-2), respectively. They also saw a hefty loss 10-0 to the Alabama Crimson Tide, with mistakes mostly confined to one messy inning.

Irish softball head coach Deanna Gumpf encompassed the weekend saying, “I saw so many good things this weekend. And I think it starts on the mound. I thought our pitching staff did a great job. Against all three opponents actually, even in the game we didn’t play very well it really came down to one inning, the girls just kind of fell apart for one inning and that was the whole ballgame. So, I think our pitching staff is ready for this weekend and for conference play. So, I definitely they’ve done a great job to prepare.”

With seniors Alexis Holloway and Payton Tidd and junior Morgan Ryan in the lineup on the mound, all of whom played significant portions of this weekend, Coach Gumpf has no doubt in their ability going forward.

“I think that they’ve all prepared themselves in a way to where I feel like any of them is capable of starting and winning a ballgame,” she said. “So I really like that. I think they’re all in a good place.”

It wasn’t just on the mound that Notre Dame found success. Against the Lions, Irish senior centerfielder Abby Sweet had a run and two RBIs. After being shut out in the Saturday evening game against the Crimson Tide, Sweet then came back against the Hornets to have two more runs and another RBI.

“[Sweet] had a wonderful weekend, and did a great job leading the team in hitting,” Gumpf said. “She has such good power and such good speed that people really don’t know what to expect from her. So she’s involved really well right now, which is good.”

Gumpf also spoke highly of sophomore right fielder Emma Clark’s performance during the tournament.

“Emma Clark, she does just a great job of putting the ball in play and making the defense panic because she is so fast,” Gumpf said.

Clark was another recognizable name this weekend. With 2 runs and 1 RBI across both games, and topping off the weekend, tying the all-time Notre Dame stolen bases record, Gumpf has full faith in Clark.

“I had no idea that she tied it, and I hope she breaks it this year,” Gumpf said. “I think she can break it and I hope she does.”

Gumpf was also quick to recognize the efforts and successes of some of her newer players as well, sophomore outfielder Leea Hanks whose first season was cut short due to COVID-19 as well as first years Carlli Kloss and Karina Gaskin.

“Leea Hanks did a great job, all weekend, finding the finding a way to put the bat on the ball and making things happen Karina Gaskins as a freshman came in for big situations and came in big for us, which I was really pleased to see a freshman, making that kind of contribution right away,” Gumpf said. “Carlli Kloss did a great job as a freshman coming in. She had, I think, two hits on the week, and also behind the plate, she threw somebody out. Shelby Grimm was amazing behind the plate and everybody was afraid to run on her she was so good.”

What’s still up in the air is the exact structure for the end of this week and this coming weekend against Syracuse and Duke.

“I'm not sure how we’re going to go about this weekend yet,” Gumpf said about pitching decisions this week. “A lot of it’s going to go into the weather we’ll see how the weather plays out and if we play those first few games on that very first day so I think I’m just gonna go in, and I’m sure all three of them are going to pitch at some point. So we’re going to attack our opponent, regardless of who’s on the mound.”

The team has a couple of things to consider before playing again, especially to ensure another inning like the last one of Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide can’t happen again.

“It wasn’t just one thing,” Gumpf said. “Everything kind of fell apart at the same time, and I really believe that when, when there was a mistake made that, you know, we were so focused on the mistake that we made instead of being able to quickly move on and realizing … we’re gonna make mistakes. It’s okay as long as we continue just to let the mistakes go and focus on the next play. I don’t ever foresee that happening again. I think it’s the first weekend, playing at night, getting out of an inside building kind of a thing. I think now that we’ve been outside one weekend, I think it’s gonna be a little easier.”

With Syracuse looming and Duke on the horizon right behind it, Gumpf talked about what she expects from the two teams and how they will move forward around them. While the game-time decisions haven’t been made yet, Gumpf and the Irish have goals for the Syracuse game.

“Syracuse is a very good team who is led by their pitching staff,” she said. “And if we get to the pitching staff, I think you know that’s the key there. I think we can control their hitters. And I think that we can handle them, but you know they’re a good team and they’re going to come out on all cylinders. It’s their first weekend playing. So I expect them to be pretty fired up to play us. Our strength facing Syracuse I think will be our offensive game. I think we’re going to be able to create runs with our speed and being able to put pressure on their defense. And I think our pitching staff is going to do a great job against their hitters.”

Regarding Duke, Gumpf said the team has “everything.”

“As for Duke, they have a very good softball team,” Gumpf said. “They have ready hitting they have great pitching. So it’s just a matter of, I believe that, you know, we can beat them if we played just good softball. And we just have to focus on that and make sure we’re doing little things really well. Against them, I would say the exact same thing [as for Syracuse] I think we have to find ways to generate runs and control their hitters.”

After being off the field for so long and unable to play Gumpf said “any day we get to play is a great day,” and she believes the same goes for the women on her team as they come back to the field and establish who this team will be this season.

“I think they’re figuring things out and they’re finding out their identity on the field, as we’re playing,” Gumpf said. “And I think that happens in time and through time. When you talk about unity and the team, I think the stuff that happens off the field is just as important as that that happens on the field.”

The Irish will take the field in a doubleheader against the Syracuse Orange at 11 a.m. and 1:30 pm on Thursday, Feb. 18 and again at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19. Exactly 24 hours later, they face Duke at 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 and get up for two more Duke games on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Irish junior infielder Quinn Biggio prepares for a hit during Notre Dame’s 8-0 win at home over IUPUI on April 3, 2019.