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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame takes two of three from Louisville, Gumpf makes history vs. MSU

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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.


Usually, a weekend series win in ACC play for Notre Dame softball would be the marquee headline. But after taking two of three from Louisville over the weekend, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf etched her name in the Notre Dame record books.

Over the weekend, the Irish picked up where they left off in ACC play after a thunderous 10-2 win to finish last Sunday’s double-header against Pitt. Their two wins against the Cardinals came in completely different fashions, however. The first was a pitcher’s duel, as Irish graduate student Payton Tidd and Louisville’s duo of Alyssa Zabala and Taylor Roby matched each other pitch for pitch. The one exception was a solo home run in the top of the third inning by senior infielder Joley Mitchell, which held up as the only run. It was Notre Dame’s first 1-0 win since May 7, 2021, a victory at home over Boston College.

The lone player to drive in a run in that game was current junior first baseman Karina Gaskins, who had a big impact on the rest of the Louisville series. The final two games of the series marked the first time all year that Gaskins, Notre Dame’s home run leader a year ago, went deep in consecutive contests. Incredibly, Gaskins was the only player to go deep on Friday, even though the teams combined for 19 runs and 21 hits. Notre Dame’s 13 runs were the most they’ve scored in a conference game, and all of them came in the first four innings, punctuated by a five-run second. Each of Notre Dame’s top three hitters – junior catcher Carlli Kloss, Mitchell and Gaskins – each recorded multiple hits and combined to drive in seven runs. Freshman Micaela Kastor picked up the win, striking out five in 5.1 innings of relief.

However, the Irish forgot to save some runs for the season finale, though the team jumped out a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by sophomore infielder Anna Holloway. After responding with a run in the bottom of the third, Louisville took control of the game with a four-run fourth inning. Tidd’s five earned runs allowed in 3.2 innings were the second most she’s allowed in a game this season. Gaskins got one back with a solo blast in the fifth. But Louisville once again answered with a run of their own to seal the victory and avoid the sweep.

Tuesday’s victory was a historic one, as it marked the 849th career win for Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf. That broke the all-time record for most wins by a Notre Dame head coach in any sport, surpassing legendary women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw. In her 22nd year as head coach, Gumpf has had an illustrious Irish career and now holds a piece of Notre Dame history.

The Irish got on the board early, pushing across three first-inning runs to quickly take control of the contest. Notre Dame made heavy use of small ball in their early surge, hitting four singles in the inning. Aggressive baserunning was also key, as both Kloss and Mitchell were able to score after stealing second base.

Following a quiet second frame, the Irish got back to work in the third. Gaskins led off and expanded the lead with a titanic solo home run to center field. Gaskins’ blast was hit so high that the Big Ten Plus broadcast lost the ball mid-flight.

Three batters later, Holloway would add to the Notre Dame lead with a home run of her own. Holloway’s two-run shot, which cleared the left-center field wall, was her second of the year. 

The Irish would plate two more insurance runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings to put the game in run-rule territory. With runners on second and third in the fifth, sophomore infielder Jane Kronenberger corked a sacrifice fly to center field. In the sixth inning, senior outfielder Leea Hanks beat out an infield single in the same situation to push the Irish lead to 8-0.

Working with a comfortable cushion all day, Kastor enjoyed a strong outing in the circle. The freshman pitched three shutout innings, striking out a batter and allowing just three hits. Kastor dealt with some adversity early on, ceding a leadoff single in the first and facing a bases-loaded jam in the second, but escaped both times without allowing a run.

Shannon Becker entered in relief for the Irish and closed out the game without issue. Giving up two hits and no runs in three innings of work, the sophomore continued a nice run of form in her latest role as a reliever in the Notre Dame rotation.

Notre Dame will now face a quick turnaround, with Indiana coming to Melissa Cook Stadium for an in-state showdown Wednesday. The Hoosiers have been red-hot over the last month, winning 24 of their last 26 games. The matchup will offer the Irish a chance to make a national statement. The Hoosiers currently reside on the fringes or inside of most national top 25 rankings.

Infielder Taryn Kern will lead the way for the visitors on offense, as the breakout freshman is enjoying a torrid campaign. Kern has 17 home runs on the year. She leads Indiana in homers, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. In short, if Indiana has a leaderboard for an offensive category, odds are Kern is on top of it.

In the circle, it seems all but certain Brianna Copeland will get the start for the Hoosiers. Copeland is Indiana’s ace, boasting a perfect 14-0 record and leading the Hoosiers staff in innings pitched. With Macy Montgomery given the starting nod for Indiana’s Tuesday clash against Louisville, Copeland appears set to start Wednesday in South Bend. 

Notre Dame softball will be back in action Wednesday against Indiana at Melissa Cook Stadium. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.