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ND Softball

Irish split doubleheader at home with Loyola-Chicago

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

Last time Notre Dame took the field, it was able to sweep its doubleheader Sunday against Syracuse. This time around, the Irish weren’t as fortunate, coming away with a split in another doubleheader Wednesday night, this time against Loyola-Chicago.

In the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Irish (27-13, 10-4 ACC) were unable to hold on to an early lead as the bats went silent after a strong first inning and the defense committed some crucial fielding errors in an 8-4 defeat.

Notre Dame jumped on the board first, as junior second baseman Ali Wester led off with a single and came around to score two batters later when freshman center fielder Abby Sweet doubled to left field. Then, with two outs in the frame, senior designated player Sara White hit one out the opposite way — her fifth home run of the season in just her 36th at-bat — to put the Irish up 3-0 before the end of the first inning.

Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish senior designated player Sara White celebrates her fifth home run of the season while rounding the bases during Notre Dame’s 8-4 loss to Loyola-Chicago. Her five home runs were accomplished on 30 at-bat opportunities.

However, the Irish would manage just five hits the rest of the way, neutralizing the team’s quick start offensively.

“I think the first inning, we hit hitters’ pitches,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said of the team’s performance at the plate. “After that, we started hitting [Ramblers’ junior right-hander Keenan Dolezal’s] game, so we started chasing pitches that were a little bit further out of the zone.”

The Ramblers (17-17, 3-7 MVC), on the other hand, were able to work Irish freshman right-hander Alexis Holloway into deep counts — she threw 123 pitches in her 5 1/3 innings on the mound — and eventually take advantage of some Irish defensive errors. An error by Holloway allowed the Ramblers to score two runs in the third. Then, after scoring a run in the fifth, Loyola added three more in the sixth, as errors by sophomore shortstop Katie Marino and Wester allowed two of those runs to come across the plate unearned, giving Loyola a 6-3 lead.

“It’s just when no part of our game is going well, it gets to you,” Gumpf said of the team’s errors. “Typically, if something else is going well, we can recover. We just didn’t recover because nothing was going well at that.”

The Irish would add a run in the bottom of the sixth, as junior first baseman MK Bonamy hit a deep fly into the bleachers in left field to bring the score to 6-4. But the Irish would give two runs right back in the top of the seventh, as the Ramblers made them pay for three walks given up between junior right-hander Cait Brooks and senior left-hander Katie Beriont with a two-out, two-run single to give the Ramblers an 8-4 lead.

Despite the four-run deficit, the Irish would make things interesting in the bottom of the seventh, as they loaded the bases with no outs and their 3-4-5 hitters coming to the dish. However, they would fail to score a run as Sweet, Brooks and White failed to drive in any of the runners to close out the 8-4 defeat.

“It’s exactly what you want,” Gumpf said of the team’s opportunity in the final frame. “It’s what I wanted. Just didn’t happen.”

After a 30-minute break, the second game of the doubleheader got underway, and it would be a much lower scoring affair.

Through the first five innings, neither team was able to produce much offensively. After two hits in the first inning, the Irish failed to record another hit until the bottom of the sixth. But that additional hit in the sixth — and a Loyola error — would ultimately allow the Irish to push across the game’s only run, as Sweet reached on a single, advanced to third on an error and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Bonamy to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.

Sarah Olson | The Observer

Notre Dame freshman center fielder swings at the plate during Notre Dame’s 8-4 loss and 1-0 win against Loyola-Chicago on April 11 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

“Abby Sweet grinded it out,” Gumpf said of the team’s lone run in the win. “I mean, she took two extra bases on that and then scored from a ball that was on the dirt. So, that tells you a lot about how determined she was to score.”

And with Beriont on the mound for the Irish, that lead would be enough, as she managed to go the distance and twirl a shutout, allowing just five hits and throwing 101 pitches to lead the Irish to the 1-0 victory.

“She did everything well,” Gumpf said of Beriont. “She kept them off balance, she hit her spots really well, her ball was moving. Katie had a great game.”

Having split the doubleheader with Loyola, Notre Dame will now host Duke for a three-game series in its eighth-annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend. The series will start 1 p.m. Saturday with a doubleheader and conclude with a noon game Sunday at Melissa Cook Stadium.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

Contact Benjamin