Irish bounce back from Purdue loss, win Virginia Tech
Charlotte Edmonds | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Looking to re-establish themselves after having dropped two of their last four games, the Irish attempted to regain some momentum over the past week. And after dropping a midweek contest to Purdue, they were able to take two out of three this past weekend against conference foe Virginia Tech.
Notre Dame (23-12, 7-4 ACC) first hosted cross-state rival Purdue (8-27, 1-5 Big Ten) last Wednesday at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The Boilermakers paid little regard to their losing record, earning their first run in the second inning, as an Irish fielding error allowed junior second baseman Stephanie Ramsey to reach base and come around to score three batters later on an infield single by junior first baseman Mallory Baker.
Two innings later, Irish senior shortstop Morgan Reed recorded her fifth home run of the season to tie the game. Purdue responded, however, by taking the lead in the top of the sixth with Ramsey plating junior pinch runner Maddie Damon, and two more Boilermaker runs were scored in the seventh to secure the 4-1 win.
“Purdue was a tough loss because we didn’t play nearly our best game,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They came in and fought … and we didn’t punch back very well. We had to figure out what we’re going to focus on.”
On Friday, the team took on Virginia Tech (13-20, 2-9 ACC) in Blacksburg, Virginia, in the first of a three-game series. The Hokies came out of the dugout ready to strike, scoring a run in each of the first two innings and holding the Irish scoreless. Hokies senior center fielder Caroline Schoenewald scored on an Irish error in the first inning, while junior second baseman Olivia Lattin extended the Hokies lead with a solo home run — her third of the season — in the second frame. After narrowly escaping a bases loaded and no outs situation in the top of the third without allowing the run, the Irish held the Hokies offense in check the remainder of the game. The Irish offense, however, struggled to produce runs of its own. In the top of the seventh inning, Irish junior first baseman MK Bonamy knocked in Reed to cut the deficit in half, but they were unable to tack on anything else and fell 2-1.
“We just didn’t hit,” Gumpf said of the loss. “We pitched well enough to beat them, but we had one bad defensive inning. We didn’t win any innings. When you don’t win any innings, you can’t win the ball game.”
With Friday’s win, the Hokies snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Irish.
After dropping two games in three days, the Irish headed into Saturday trying to salvage their conference record. In the first game of the day’s doubleheader, the Irish jumped out to a 2-0 over the Hokies in the top of the first inning. Irish junior left fielder Ali Wester hit a single to start the game before freshman center fielder Abby Sweet was hit by a pitch two batters later. Then, junior designated player Cait Brooks stepped up to the plate and hit a deep fly ball to left that the fielder could not field cleanly, scoring both runners. The team’s momentum continued into the second, as Sweet hit an RBI single to bring sophomore outfielder Alexis Bazos home and put the Irish up 3-0 to close the inning. The Hokies quickly tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame, however.
The Irish responded in the top of the third, as junior third baseman Melissa Rochford recorded her first home run of the season to put the Irish up one. Then, in the top of the fifth, Sweet hit a home run of her own to put the Irish up 5-3. Despite a Virginia Tech run in the bottom of the sixth inning, Notre Dame held on to its lead to end the first game of the day with a 5-4 win.
Gumpf said the best thing about the first Virgina Tech game was that they stayed with it and didn’t get rattled.
With a brief break in between, the team returned to the field in hopes of winning the series in the rubber match. Both teams struggled offensively throughout the game, going scoreless through seven innings. Irish freshman right-hander Alexis Holloway stifled the Hokies while going the distance, and she even earned the first hit of the game for the Irish in the top of the sixth inning.
“If you look at the last month she’s been pretty lights out for us,” Gumpf said of Holloway. “She’s been kinda our go-to. They [she and senior left-hander Katie Beriont] have been a really good duo, and now it’s just about playing consistently behind them. I felt like the last 20 games, they’ve really figured it out.”
The Irish eventually broke through offensively in the eighth inning, as Bazos scored Bonamy with an RBI single before Wester earned two more runs with a single down the right side to score both Holloway and Rochford. In the bottom of the eighth, Virginia Tech earned one run back of their own off Holloway, but the freshman closed out the game to give the Irish a 3-1 win and the series victory.
Looking ahead, the Irish were set to take on Michigan State in Lansing, Michigan, on Tuesday. However, the game was postponed due to the threat of inclement weather.
“We need to play. It’s very frustrating when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate,” Gumpf said of the weather this past month, as the Irish also had a midweek game against Western Michigan on March 21 postponed.
After nearly a week off, the team will host Syracuse in a three-game series this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. Opening pitch of the first game is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.