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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Kastor in control: sophomore fires off complete game against UIC

Irish win final midweek game of regular season 1-0

After the cancellation of Tuesday’s game against Central Michigan, at least one Notre Dame softball player couldn’t wait to get back on the field. Sophomore right-hander Micaela Kastor unleashed the best start of her career on Illinois-Chicago, pitching a complete game with a career-high 10 strikeouts. Kastor’s work, which extended Notre Dame’s shutout streak by starting pitchers to 13 innings, led the Irish to a 1-0 win in their final midweek contest of the regular season.

Head coach Deanna Gumpf shook up her Notre Dame lineup a bit, bringing sophomore center fielder Mickey Winchell up to the two hole. But the Irish still struggled against UIC’s pitching combination of Carlee Jo Clark and Christina Toniolo. After Kastor worked a perfect top of the first inning, Clark shut down the Irish in her only frame of the day.

In the second, Kastor punched out three to navigate around a leadoff walk and a wild pitch. Notre Dame then put runners at the corners thanks to a fielding error and single, giving the bottom of the Irish order a chance to start the scoring. But neither junior shortstop Anna Holloway nor junior left fielder Emily Tran hit the ball out of the infield, killing the rally and keeping the game scoreless.

An inning later, Kastor stranded another runner in scoring position after yielding a two-out double to Emma Gumont. Notre Dame then went down in order for the only time during Toniolo’s five innings, grounding out twice and lining out. Kastor would respond with a perfect top of the fourth, maintaining the 0-0 tie at the game’s midway point.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Irish gave the bottom of their lineup card another prime chance to break the seal. With two outs and a runner already on, junior right fielder Jane Kronenberger walked on four pitches ahead of a first-pitch single by Holloway, loading the bases for Tran. Batting for the second time with multiple runners in scoring position, Tran again put the ball on the ground, leading UIC to end the inning with a force out at home plate.

After that missed opportunity, Kastor encountered her most pressing threat of the game. She surrendered a one-out double to Anna Walker, offering the Flames two chances to take the lead with a runner in scoring position. But both chances slipped away with a strikeout and groundout, moving the game along to the bottom of the fifth.

Notre Dame finally cracked into the scoreboard in that half-inning. Senior catcher Carlli Kloss walked before Winchell singled, and both stole a base to put two runners in scoring position. The next hitter, freshman second baseman Addison Amaral, hit a flyout to right field that scored Kloss. However, UIC threw out Winchell in her attempt to advance on the swing, emptying the basepaths with a double play. Notre Dame still took back-to-back walks after that but couldn’t add any runs from that development.

Kastor didn’t care one bit, though. Pitching with the lead for the first time all day, the sophomore punched out each of her first two hitters in a one-two-three sixth inning. Then, after walking a Flame with one down in the seventh, she finished with a flair. Kastor picked up her 10th strikeout to finish out the game, needing only 97 pitches to go the distance.

With the win, Kastor improved her own record to 9-8 on the season and Notre Dame’s to 25-20. The Irish offense, whose only two-hit player was Kronenberger, will look to come alive this weekend against Boston College for the final series of the regular season.