Notre Dame sweeps Syracuse 3-0 in opening series of home stand
Notre Dame came into the weekend set for three games in three days with ACC opponent Syracuse. And while they had to squeeze the three-game set into two days, the Irish came away with the series sweep by the end of the weekend.
Originally scheduled for a game Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the two teams postponed Friday’s game due to high wind chill, pushing the series back a day and creating a Sunday doubleheader.
In Saturday’s series opener, which turned out to be the closest game, Notre Dame (26-12, 10-4 ACC) topped Syracuse (18-17, 4-10 ACC) by a score of 2-1.
Playing in freezing conditions, Irish freshman right-hander Alexis Holloway struggled to get comfortable on the mound early, walking two and allowing a base hit in the top of the first inning. However, Holloway kept the Orange in check and, despite the early struggles, got out of the inning unscathed.
“She was just going fast and her momentum was off,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said Saturday of her starter. “When she slows down, she has a much better rhythm. Her adrenaline gets rolling and sometimes she has to control [it]. That’s the way she plays the game.”
And while Holloway eventually settled in and allowed just one run in a complete-game effort, the pitcher on the other side was just as good for most of the contest. Orange sophomore left-hander Alexa Romero entered the contest with a 1.73 ERA in 17 starts and kept the Irish off the board until the fourth inning.
“She’s super effective outside of the zone,” Gumpf said of Romero on Saturday. “When we make her throw strikes, we’ll hit her. When we swing at bad pitches, that’s her game and that’s what she’s really good at. … She’ll make you chase.”
But in that fourth inning, it was the Irish who struck first, as sophomore second baseman Katie Marino led the inning off by single-handedly putting the Irish on the board after drilling a home run against the scoreboard. Gumpf said Marino’s home run created a lot of energy in the dugout.
“We were waiting and waiting … it changed everything in the game,” she said.
Though the Orange would tie things up in the top of the sixth, Irish freshman center fielder Abby Sweet proved to be the hero the Irish needed in the bottom of the frame. She hit a single up the middle with two outs to score Marino, giving the Irish a 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh, the Orange failed to get anyone past first, and Notre Dame walked away with the win.
Sunday’s doubleheader, however, wasn’t quite as close.
In the first game, the Irish once again faced Romero on the mound. This time, however, they came out aggressive, swinging early in counts to take advantage of better pitches. And with two runners on base, senior designated player Sara White — who is just 6-for-29 on the season after the weekend — hit her fourth home run of the year to put the Irish up 3-0 in the first inning.
“It changed everything,” Gumpf said Sunday of the approach at the plate against Romero this time around. “It made them [not want] to throw her back in there, which is good.”
And with Romero out of the game by the bottom of the second, the Irish would continue to pile on and take advantage of three Syracuse errors en route to scoring eight runs total in the game. That would be enough to trigger a mercy-rule win without recording an out in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Irish senior left-hander Katie Beriont threw an efficient 65 pitches on her way to a complete-game shutout.
“Katie was lights out,” Gumpf said Sunday. “I‘ll tell you what, she thew a great game. She hit her spots so stinking well today. … So she did exactly what you want that person to do. I mean, what a way to set the tone for her team on the day. She changed everything.”
In the second game of Sunday’s slate, Holloway was back on the mound for the Irish. The freshman once again started off slowly, allowing the first two runners to reach and one run to score. But just when it seemed the Irish would allow the Orange to pick things up offensively, Holloway settled in and finished with another complete-game, one-run effort.
“She got a little tentative at first. … She made things too hard on herself,“ Gumpf said of Holloway on Sunday. “Sometimes she does that, but she was so lights out [from the second through the sixth inning], so I’ll take it. She makes the ball move tons, and sometimes she’s not going to get the calls she wants, but she stayed in there and gutted it out.”
Offensively, the Irish were led by Sweet once again. She followed up a 3-for-4 performance in the first game Sunday with a 3-for-3 second game, this time hitting a home run en route to a three RBI performance to propel the Irish to a 5-1 win.
“She just swings hard,” Gumpf said of Sweet. “She‘s the kid that doesn’t get cheated — whatever happens, happens. But she doesn’t get cheated, and that’s what I love about her and that’s why she’s such a good hitter.”
And with the win, the Irish earned an important sweep of a conference opponent, giving them momentum heading into Wednesday’s nonconference doubleheader with Loyola-Chicago.
“The toughest thing to do out in a season is sweep a conference series because we know each other so well and you’re changing your game, trying to play a little chess match,” Gumpf said Sunday. “I think it’s the toughest thing, and I’m really proud of the way we played today.”