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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Dominant pitching carries Irish to non-conference victories

After inclement weather essentially brought their season to a halt, the Irish softball team got back into action with a pair of non-conference games against Loyola University Chicago and Central Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Even though the Irish played just one of five scheduled games since March 19, they showed no signs of rust.

For the first time in just over four years, the Irish recorded a no-hitter Tuesday against the Ramblers. Graduate student pitcher Alexis Holloway, who had the last Notre Dame no-hitter back in March 2018, kept the Ramblers out of the hit column for all five innings of a 10-0 Notre Dame victory. Holloway allowed just four baserunners the entire game — one walk, two errors and one dropped third strike. She recorded five strikeouts on the day and kept a scuffling Loyola-Chicago offense off balance all game. Holloway generated lots of weak contact and off balance swings from just about every hitter.

The Irish offense certainly gave Holloway plenty of support. Notre Dame jumped out to an early 8-0 lead by scoring four runs in each of the first two innings. For the second straight game, sophomore first baseman Karina Gaskins gave the Irish a 2-0 lead, this time with a two-run single to right field. Sophomore third baseman Cassidy Grimm followed suit with an opposite-field two-run single of her own later in the inning.

Freshman second baseman Jane Kronenberger kept the trend going with a two-run single of her own in the second inning. An RBI double by junior designated player Joley Mitchell extended the lead. The Irish stretched it further with a double steal that ended with Mitchell stealing home. Freshman catcher Rachel Allen delivered the dagger with a titanic pinch-hit, two-run home run in the fourth inning, putting the game out of reach. The win marks Notre Dame’s ninth shutout victory and also pushed their ACC leading run total over the 200 threshold.

The Irish pitching was nearly as dominant Wednesday against Central Michigan. Freshman pitcher Shannon Becker started the game, allowing just one run in three innings. Senior Payton Tidd took over in a critical spot, with the tied 1-1 in the fourth inning. Tidd retired all 12 hitters she faced, extending her shutout streak to eight innings. It helped to have a much sharper defense behind them, as the Irish had their first error free game since March 18 on Wednesday.

That was especially important since it took Notre Dame’s bats a while to get going. The score remained deadlocked at one into the bottom of the fifth inning. But a solo home run by junior shortstop Brooke Marquez gave the Irish the lead for good. Notre Dame tacked on a couple of crucial insurance runs in the sixth. Kronenberger stretched the lead to 3-1 with an RBI single before Tidd drove in a run to help herself with a sacrifice fly.

Overall, it was a tremendous week for the Irish softball team. They continue to rise as they look to return to the top 25. Considering they were already second highest on the receiving votes list, just maintaining their success could be enough to earn them a ranking. As Notre Dame progresses towards the bulk of its ACC schedule, beginning with a three-game series at home this weekend against Georgia Tech, the Irish can feel comfortable about their play on both sides of the ball.

The Irish are back in action Friday, March 1 as they host the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets at 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.