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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

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Sixth-inning rally carries Irish softball over Michigan State in 4-2 victory

Irish notch third straight victory behind superb pitching from Shannon Becker and Alexis Laudenslager

Notre Dame softball won their third consecutive game Tuesday, rallying late to notch a 4-2 win over Michigan State. 

The Irish utilized a deep stable of talent in the circle in the triumph, with all three of the team’s usual starting rotation pitching at least one inning. Sophomore Shannon Becker — who started the contest — did the lion’s share of work, throwing 85 pitches and striking out three batters across four nonconsecutive innings of work. Freshman Micaela Kastor came in to pitch in the third inning and graduate student Alexis Laudenslager eventually closed out the game, retiring six batters in quick succession over the final two frames. 

After the game, associate head coach Kris Ganeff praised Becker and Laudenslager for their impressive work on the day. The starter/closer pair faced a total of 23 batters, not allowing a single run across their six combined innings. Ganeff noted that their off-speed pitches in particular were effective against the Spartans.

“The two of them, their balls were moving,” Ganeff said. “If you were watching from home, or watching from behind the plate, you’re going to see that the ball was moving. Up, down, in, out — all the directions. That helped them hit their strikes when they needed them.”

It took time for Notre Dame’s offense — which mustered just three hits across the game’s first two trips through the order — to find a spark, but they eventually did so in the sixth inning through a motley combination of skill, opportunism and fortune. Both key contributors and substitutes came up big to put the Irish in front. Hits by senior catcher Carlli Kloss and junior left fielder Emily Tran gave Notre Dame a pair of early baserunners. After some deft baserunning by Tran put both players in scoring position, a Michigan State error on a ground ball by freshman infielder Addison Amaral helped get the Irish on the board. 

Eventually, after another hit by junior right fielder Jane Kronenberger and a Spartan force-out, Notre Dame faced a two-out, bases-loaded at-bat. Head coach Deanna Gumpf opted to call on her bench to make the most of the opportunity, a decision that paid sizable dividends. Senior infielder Mac Vasquez, who drove in the go-ahead runs that won the Irish their weekend series against Georgia Tech as a pinch-hitter two days prior, worked a four-pitch walk to bring the tying run home. Fellow senior infielder Bryn Boznanski then put the home side ahead for good, knocking a two-strike single up the middle to put Notre Dame up 4-2.

Ganeff mentioned that the energy brought by every player in the dugout gave the coaching staff the confidence to utilize those players in clutch situations.

“They just bring a certain passion and fire to the game that changes it for the whole team,” Ganeff said. “When you see that, we know we can pick any one of them to call on and they’re going to do their job in that moment.”

The win moves the Irish to 3-0 on the year at home, and gives the club their ninth win in their last 11 games. After an up-and-down start saw Notre Dame lose their first four conference matchups, the Irish seem to have found their groove with the season’s midpoint creeping up. Next on the docket will be a weekend series against a North Carolina State squad that’s won just one ACC game in six tries, giving Notre Dame a chance to further foster that momentum and move to a winning record in conference play.