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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame softball prepares for midweek clash with IUPUI

Tuesday afternoon, Notre Dame softball will look to get back to winning ways with a home matchup against IUPUI. The Irish are coming off a showing in which they made recent program history over the weekend. Notre Dame tied their first game since 2008  — their first 0-0 tie since 1990 — Sunday night against Syracuse.

Graduate student pitcher Payton Tidd did all she could for the Irish in the stalemate, which ended the series knotted at 1-1-1 overall. Tidd manned the circle for all seven innings and part of the eighth before a game-ending lightning delay. Conceding just four hits over her complete game, she held the Orange at bay all game.

The Irish offense, however, couldn‘t provide Tidd the support needed to eke out a victory. Notre Dame managed just five hits in seven innings off Syracuse hurler Lindsey Hendrix. It seemed the Irish had a breakthrough in the sixth inning when junior infielder Karina Gaskins cranked a two-run home run over the left field fence, but it wasn’t to be. The umpires reviewed the play and determined the ball had gone foul before it hit the ground. The score remained, and eventually ended, level at zero.

Notre Dame will have a prime chance to get its offense back into gear Tuesday against a struggling IUPUI team. The Jaguars hold a 6-16 record and have struggled in non-conference tests against high-major opposition. In IUPUI’s last two games against power five teams, a pair of early March tests against Wisconsin and Indiana at the Hoosier Classic, the Jaguars allowed 21 combined runs in two run-rule losses.

The Irish offense will be looking to find consistency after an up-and-down first third of the season. Notre Dame had seemed to find its groove in mid-March, scoring seven or more runs in a stretch of seven consecutive games leading into Sunday. But any momentum came to a halt in the series-concluding doubleheader against the Orange. The Irish managed just three runs off 10 total hits in 14 total innings at the plate.

Blip against Syracuse aside, however, the Irish will have the historical comfort of home grounds to back them up Tuesday. Notre Dame has been excellent in recent years at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish are now a combined 44-4-1 at home over the last four full seasons.

This week‘s showdowns against IUPUI and UIC should give Notre Dame an important warm-up for its weekend series against Pittsburgh. The Panthers are 0-6 in conference play and took the last-place mantle from Syracuse after the Orange got their first ACC win of the season against the Irish over the weekend.

The Pittsburgh series won’t be a statement opportunity, but it can confirm Notre Dame is still among the ACC’s best. If the Irish cruise past the Panthers, they’ll enter a key road series next weekend against fourth-place Louisville with momentum. But if the Irish struggle with another team low in the conference standings, some hand-wringing will likely begin.

Notre Dame softball will take on IUPUI on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.