Irish end losing streak with victories over Minnesota, Michigan
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Notre Dame gained momentum last weekend as the Irish won three out of four games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Tallahassee, Florida.
The Irish entered the weekend with a 3-2 record after their first tournament in California, with their two losses coming in the final two games of that competition.
Against then-No. 20 Michigan on Saturday, the Irish looked like they hadn’t recovered from the previous two defeats, as the Wolverines (5-4) shutout the Irish 6-0.
But for the rest of the weekend, things went Notre Dame’s way, as the Irish turned a corner to win their next three games against ranked Big Ten squads.
“I think it showed a lot of character on our team,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Especially because our first weekend wasn’t easy and it was pretty rough. We didn’t play as well as we could have and we let a couple things slip away out of our fingers. I felt like that first game [versus Michigan] was mirroring our first week and after that, we made a decision to just play the game and not let uncontrollable things and distractions get in our way.”
After the first loss to Michigan, the Irish went on to beat then-No. 14 Minnesota in two straight games, 6-5 and 3-0.
In Saturday evening’s 6-5 nail-biter, the Irish jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of throwing errors by the Golden Gophers (5-4). Minnesota took a 3-2 lead, but sophomore catcher Madison Heide belted a bases-loaded double in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the Irish up 4-3.
Going into the game’s final inning, the Irish were up 6-3, and the Golden Gophers mounted a comeback to make it 6-5. But a double play ball set up by senior shortstop Morgan Reed and sophomore second baseman Katie Marino stopped the rally and closed out the game.
In addition to turning double play up the middle of the field on defense, Marino and Reed have been leading the Irish offensively for the first two weeks of the season. Both players are batting over .400 and are first and second on the team in RBIs, hits and home runs.
“They’ve been the consistency in the lineup,” Gumpf said of the duo. “They’ve been the ones who have come up in big opportunities and done a great job with that. Consistency and that’s what we’re looking for. If we can get a lineup of nine and have six of them be really consistent, then we’re going to be in really good shape. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now, who’s going to be consistent and those two have done a really good job these first two weeks.”
On the mound, freshman pitcher Alexis Holloway has made her mark in helping the Irish to victory. Holloway pitched the pivotal final 3.2 innings against Minnesota in the close win, as well as a complete game shutout against the Golden Gophers and two innings against Michigan in a 4-3 win on Sunday.
Holloway leads the team in innings pitched and sports a 4-2 record on the year. Gumpf said Holloway has been up to the tough task set in front of her thus far.
“I think the best is still yet to come for her and it just takes time,” Gumpf said of the freshman pitcher. “We threw her into the wolves and told her to sink or swim and she’s treading water and I think she’s getting better every time she gets out there and she’ll continue to improve when she keeps building the confidence.”
The Irish swept their two games on Sunday to close out the weekend with a 3-1 record. The wins over Minnesota and Michigan propelled the Irish to the No. 25 spot in this week’s AP rankings.
But there is no rest for the weary, as Notre Dame will yet again travel to a warm location this weekend to take on nationally ranked competition in Cathedral City, California. There, the Irish face No. 12 Auburn, No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 1 Washington.
To get some wins against tough opponents, Gumpf said the key for her team is to remain confident and build off last weekend’s results.
“One thing we talked about as a team is when you let doubt set in, you play like you have doubt,” Gumpf said. “When you play with confidence and say, ‘you know what? Let it happen.’ Anything can happen. I think we match up with some of these teams really well.”
The Irish start play in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Thursday at 1 p.m. against Auburn.