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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Irish softball picks up ranked win, go 4-1 in opening weekend

In their opening weekend of play, Notre Dame softball got off to a 4-1 start for the 2023 season. They started off with a statement victory, knocking off No. 22 Arizona State 7-1 in their season opener. After a 3-0 loss to San Diego State in the second game of the weekend, the Irish won three straight. They took down CSUN, Northern Illinois and Memphis. 

Junior catcher Carlli Kloss went 8-for-16 on the weekend with two doubles, a home run and five RBI. Freshman outfielder Mickey Winchell knocked in three runs while hitting .412, starting all five games. In the pitcher’s circle, the Irish dominated, giving up just eight earned runs over 34 innings of work. Sophomore Shannon Becker led the way with 13.1 innings pitched, giving up just two earned runs. She posted a 2-1 record and struck out nine, appearing in four games. Graduate student pitcher Payton Tidd posted a 2.21 ERA across a pair of starts. The newcomer to the rotation, freshman Micaela Kastor, appeared in four games and started one, allowing two runs over eight innings of work. 

In the opener, sophomore right fielder Jane Kronenberger did most of the offensive damage for the Irish. She knocked in four runs via a three-hit performance that had the Irish rolling early. They pushed across four runs in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead over the Sun Devils. Kronenberger knocked in a pair with a single, with a third run scoring on an error. Kronenberger eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. In the fourth inning, after Arizona State cut the Irish lead to 4-1, Kronenberger struck again, blasting a two-run shot for a 6-1 lead. Behind a dominant showing from Tidd, the Irish cruised to a 7-1 victory. Tidd fired six innings, allowing only one run and striking out five. 

The Irish had their opportunities against San Diego State, but they couldn’t notch any runs. San Diego State entered the game ranked just behind the Irish in the ‘receiving votes’ section of the national polls. Notre Dame rapped out nine hits but remained scoreless in the 3-0 loss to the Aztecs. They left nine on base and San Diego State got just enough offense, as Becker allowed three runs, one earned, in five innings. The Aztecs’ leadoff hitter, Bella Espinoza, notched a three-hit performance, and three runs in the fifth inning were enough for San Diego State to win. 

Notre Dame rebounded with a trio of wins to finish the weekend. They started by avoiding a collapse after blowing a seventh-inning 4-1 lead against CSUN. CSUN took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but Kloss and Tidd each brought home a pair with two-run doubles in the fifth inning. Tidd fired a gem through six innings, allowing just the one run, but she faltered in the seventh. A three-run blast tied the score and sent the two squads to extra innings. Sophomore designated hitter Rachel Allen sent the Irish home happy in the eighth, however, driving home the winner with a run-scoring single. 

Kastor took the circle in the fourth game of the weekend, making her first career start. The Irish gave her plenty of run support in the early going, scoring five times in the second inning. Kastor’s classmate, Winchell, started the scoring with a two-run single. Kloss followed by bringing Winchell and herself home with a long ball for a 4-0 Notre Dame lead. Junior first baseman Karina Gaskins went back-to-back with Kloss, blasting a solo shot for her first home run of the season. Northern Illinois struck back with two runs in the fourth, but that was all they managed off Kastor, who picked up the win with five strikeouts over five innings. The Irish pushed across three more runs in the fifth, and Notre Dame cruised to the 8-2 victory. 

In the weekend finale, the Irish got off the field early, taking home a 9-1 mercy-rule victory over Memphis in six innings. Notre Dame put a five-spot on the board in the top of the first inning, providing Becker with plenty of run support. Graduate student shortstop Lexi Orozoco started the scoring with a two-run single. Becker started her day with four shutout frames before giving up a single blemish in the fifth. Notre Dame responded quickly with a four-run sixth inning, and Kastor polished off the game with a scoreless inning to secure the mercy-rule victory. Junior infielder Mac Vasquez plated a pair in her only at-bat of the contest, sparking the big sixth inning. 

The Irish will prepare to take on the Big Ten/ACC challenge next, where they’ll play four games in Clemson, South Carolina. They’ll play Ohio State twice and the No. 13 Northwestern Wildcats twice. The Wildcats went to the College Softball World Series last year. Notre Dame’s first game of the weekend will start at noon on Friday against Ohio State.