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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Irish cruise past Ball State 10-2 in final game of homestand

The Irish gather before a 13-12 nine-inning win over Georgia Tech on April 2, 2022, at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The Irish gather before a 13-12 nine-inning win over Georgia Tech on April 2, 2022, at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Notre Dame softball improved to 21-10-1 Tuesday night, cruising past Ball State 10-2 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The win closed out a nine-game homestand for the Irish, their first stretch of the season played in South Bend after a customary opening month of road trips. 

Aside from a solo home run by senior outfielder Leea Hanks in the third inning, it was small ball that led the Irish to the win. Senior infielder Joley Mitchell, junior infielder Karina Gaskins and graduate student infielder Lexi Orozco all notched RBI singles. Notre Dame also scratched home a run thanks to some smart base running in the fourth inning. With runners on the corners, junior infielder Cassidy Grimm stole second, and sophomore outfielder Emily Tran raced home on the throw down by Ball State. 

The Irish would scratch three more runs across in the sixth inning to invoke the run rule. Senior outfielder Macie Eck slapped another single up the middle with the bases loaded, pushing the Irish lead to six. Junior infielder Mac Vasquez worked a walk to bring home another run. Junior catcher Carlli Kloss then hustled out an infield single to bring home the decisive final run.

In the circle, freshman Micaela Kastor was on top form, pitching five innings of three-hit ball. The rookie also struck out eight batters, a new single-game career high for her. 61 of Kastor’s 94 pitches were strikes. Sophomore Shannon Becker then entered in relief, closing out the final inning without issue. Becker struck out the side in her single inning of action. Becker and Kastor’s combined 11 strikeouts marked a season high for the Irish staff on the year.

While Notre Dame hasn’t been bad in ACC play by any means, the Irish haven’t excelled either. Inconsistency defined a series loss to Pitt. A frustrating 0-0 tie left Notre Dame unable to get anything more than a 1-1-1 split out of a series against Syracuse. A walk-off home run left the Irish heartbroken against Duke. 

Notre Dame currently has one conference series win to their name, a road decision against North Carolina State. If the Irish are to continue their streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, they’ll need more in that department. A red-hot Louisville team will present a tough task this weekend, but also the opportunity for a tone reset heading into the home stretch of the season. 

The Cardinals have won nine of their last 10 games. Sitting third in the ACC, Louisville is piecing together a dark horse push to be ranked in the top 25 nationally. If the Irish can go on the road and steal a series, it will be a strong statement of intent.

Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf has stressed an interest in her side’s consistency of play over their actual record. If the Irish can piece together a winning weekend in Louisville, it will almost certainly mean they brought the consistent and thorough performance that Gumpf has emphasized. And she certainly wouldn’t complain about an addition to the team’s win column, either. 

Leading the way for the Cardinals at the plate will likely be pitcher/designated hitter Taylor Roby. Roby has displayed exceptional power in the cleanup spot this season. In Louisville’s most recent game against Syracuse, she clubbed a pair of home runs. That performance was just another in a string of electric outings for Roby this spring. With 14 home runs, 40 RBI and a slugging percentage of .860, the graduate student leads the Cardinals in just about every conceivable metric of power hitting.

In the circle, a combination of Roby and Alyssa Zabala should shoulder the load against the Irish bats. The pair have each made 20 appearances for Louisville. No other Cardinal pitcher has more than 13. While Roby and Zabala will likely pitch the first two games for Louisville, the starter for the series’ final game is less clear. Sam Booe and Gabby Holloway have started four and three games on the year, respectively. Booe has excelled in limited action, posting a 1.68 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .196 batting average.

Notre Dame softball will look to push their winning streak to three games Thursday against Louisville at Ulmer Stadium. The first pitch of game one is set for 6 p.m. and can be streamed on ACC Network Extra.