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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

Irish softball heats up ahead of home opener

Notre Dame softball finished off its 23-game season-opening road trip with six away games during spring break. After dropping game one against NC State last Friday, the Irish rattled off five consecutive wins in six days. With an overall record of 16-7, Notre Dame will welcome Miami (Ohio) in its home opener Tuesday.

NC State series (March 10-11)

Looking to bounce back from a tough series loss at Duke, the Irish started strong in Raleigh. Behind big hits from graduate student pitcher Payton Tidd and sophomore catcher Rachel Allen, Notre Dame led 3-0 before making four outs. However, Amanda Hasler and the Wolfpack opened the floodgates soon after. Hasler hit NC State’s second solo home run of the second inning before capping a seven-run third with a three-run shot. Both Tidd and sophomore hurler Shannon Becker gave up at least four runs as the Wolfpack, which left just one runner aboard, cruised to an 11-3 win.

Game two saw the top of Notre Dame’s lineup level the Wolfpack. Hitters one through five combined to go 11-for-20 with seven RBI and five extra base hits. The Irish once again struck first, opening up a 6-0 lead in the second frame. Junior infielder Karina Gaskins, who had been patient against passive pitching for the season’s first month, was finally doing serious damage. The reigning ACC Player of the Year clobbered two round-trippers in game two. NC State could not counter because Irish starter Micaela Kastor was on her game again. The freshman tossed six innings of two-run, walk-free softball, leading the Irish to a 10-2 victory.

In the rubber match, the Irish went deep in both the batter’s box and the circle. Notre Dame cranked five long balls on the day, going back-to-back in the sixth and seventh innings to ice the contest. Senior infielder Joley Mitchell, named the ACC Player of the Week a few days later, provided two homers, including the score-starting three-run blast in the fourth. Meanwhile, Tidd avenged her disappointing previous outing by tossing seven strong innings. With a one-hit complete game, she helped the Irish claim the series with a 7-1 win.

Midweek games (March 14-16)

Saturday’s double-header sweep gave way to a five-frame Irish beatdown of Elon on Tuesday. Before Notre Dame made a single out in the first, graduate student infielder Lexi Orozco pummeled a grand slam. Becker maintained the early lead with three scoreless innings before the Irish offense exploded in the fourth. Behind six hits — three of them doubles — the Irish scored nine to take a 13-0 lead. The 16-3 blowout wrapped up with a three-run home run from sophomore infielder Anna Holloway, her first of the season.

Against UNC Greensboro on Wednesday, Kastor again delivered in relief, lowering her season ERA to 0.88 with three scoreless innings. On the other side, Notre Dame’s bats found more early-game magic. With the help of junior catcher Carlli Kloss, who finished a double shy of the cycle, the Irish jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Never looking back, Notre Dame ended with a 12-3 walloping that stretched its hot streak to four games.

East Carolina was next in line to face the Kastor pitching machine. Sure enough, throughout Thursday afternoon, she threw the Pirates overboard. Carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Kastor struck out nine and threw seven scoreless frames - both career highs. Notre Dame’s offense rewarded her with seven runs. Senior outfielder Leea Hanks and Orozco each drove in two to help the Irish finish out another successful road swing.