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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame softball to finish season at home against Boston College

Irish seek strong finish with NCAA tournament birth on the line

Notre Dame softball will play their final ACC series of the regular season this weekend, welcoming Boston College to Melissa Cook Stadium.

The three-game series is of the utmost importance to the Irish, who are currently clinging precariously to ACC tournament qualification. The automatic bid that would come with winning the ACC tournament looks likely to be the only way for Notre Dame to extend their 24-year streak of reaching the NCAA tournament.

The Irish currently sit in eighth place in the ACC table, with the top 10 teams qualifying for the conference tournament. Winning one of their three games against the Eagles would likely be enough to lock Notre Dame into a top 10 slot, but a sweep could allow the Irish to push their way as high as sixth in the standings. Notre Dame seems all but destined to be playing a preliminary round game at present, but sneaking into the sixth seed would afford the squad a bye to the quarterfinals.

Having established a winning streak for the first time since late March, the Irish will also be looking to generate some much needed momentum heading into the final stretch of the season. Notre Dame is 4-8 so far in the month of April, including a backbreaking stretch of six losses that ran from the start of the team’s Florida State series to Sunday. 

Sunday’s walk off win against Clemson did give the Irish much-needed proof of concept in a season where it feels like Notre Dame has had their hearts broken multiple times. The Irish suffered walk-off defeats against Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Baylor. On both Friday and Saturday against Clemson, the visitors erased strong Notre Dame performances with late heroics. Sunday felt like more of the same — the Irish led for most of the day, but Clemson amassed five runs in the sixth and seventh innings to take the lead. 

This time, though, Notre Dame clawed back, scratching across two runs in the bottom half of the final frame to end the game. They would parlay that success into a 1-0 midweek win over UIC, setting the table for an all-in final series against Boston College.

Sophomore Micaela Kastor’s complete game on Wednesday affords Notre Dame’s usual weekend starters — graduate student Alexis Laudenslager and junior Shannon Becker — a full week of rest. And with these three games being the final of the regular season for the Irish, the team will have another full week of rest after this series closes. It’s likely too late in the regular season for Notre Dame to make a defining move towards becoming an at-large team for the NCAA tournament, currently sporting an RPI of 60. No other at-large team currently in D1Softball’s field projection has an RPI worse than 41.

A lower than normally accepted RPI rating (45) didn’t keep the Irish out of the tournament last year, but last year’s Notre Dame squad also boasted wins over the likes of Duke, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Indiana. As of right now, the Irish are 4-16 against teams currently in the top 50 of the RPI ranking and 0-8 against teams in the top 25. Wins against Boston College will nudge Notre Dame’s RPI closer to the usual at-large cutoff, but only the ACC tournament (and a deep run in said tournament) will afford the Irish the chance to seriously prove their mettle to the NCAA tournament selection committee.