Notre Dame wins third game of series against Duke to avoid sweep
Benjamin Padanilam | Monday, April 16, 2018
Amidst a strong wind and a crowd on tap for the weekend’s Strikeout Cancer festivities, Notre Dame was able to split its doubleheader with Duke on Saturday, but it lost the series in the process after having lost Friday’s matchup as well.
The two losses for the Irish (28-15, 11-6 ACC) came in the first two games of the series, Friday afternoon’s game and the first game of Saturday’s Strikeout Cancer doubleheader.
On Friday, the Blue Devils (23-22, 8-10) — a first-year program that came together in just two years and became the 27th varsity program at Duke — sent right-handed pitcher Amelia Wiercioch to the mound to open the series. The freshman has been the program’s ace this season, having made a team-leading 33 appearances and maintaining a team-best 1.82 earned-run average up to this point.
And Wiercioch’s success continued in her start Friday, as she held the Irish bats to just two hits through the game’s first six innings.
“Kind of feel like I’m a broken record, but we hit into her game,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said of Wiercioch’s Friday performance. “We swung at pitches that she wanted us to swing at, and thus she was successful.”
And while Irish freshman right-hander Alexis Holloway was able to match that success through four innings and keep the Blue Devils to no runs on two hits, Duke broke out in the top of the fifth inning when sophomore third baseman Raine Wilson hit a two-run home run to give the Blue Devils the lead. They would add three more over the next two innings to go up 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, where the Irish would add three hits and two runs but ultimately end up short, losing 5-2.
On Saturday, the Irish bats found a little more success, tallying nine hits in the contest. However, they struggled to turn those hits into runs, as the Irish left 11 runners on base and managed just two runs once again in the contest.
The Blue Devils, however, were able to touch up Irish starter and senior left-hander Katie Beriont in the third inning for four runs — and then add two more against Irish freshman right-hander Morgan Ryan — on their way to a 6-2 win to clinch the series victory.
“You know, I think [Sunday] was just an off day,” Gumpf said of Beriont’s performance. “It happens. I don’t think it was anything in particular, I just think it was one of those days, and we’re moving on.”
Hoping to avoid the series sweep, the Irish changed around the lineup before the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Sophomore shortstop Katie Marino — who was 4-for-4 in the team’s first game of the day — moved into the No. 3 spot, while freshman centerfielder Abby Sweet moved to the leadoff spot and junior second baseman Ali Wester moved down to the No. 2 spot. Junior third baseman Melissa Rochford moved up to the No. 5 spot from the No. 6 spot, while senior designated player Sara White moved down one spot.
The Blue Devils countered the rearranged Irish lineup with Wiercioch, hoping she could replicate her Friday success to close out the sweep. But she did not, as the Irish rallied for nine runs — as many as they had scored in their previous four games combined — on nine hits and five Blue Devils errors to avoid the sweep with a 9-5 win.
While the lineup change coincided with the Irish scoring runs in each trip to the plate except the bottom of the fourth inning, Gumpf said she thought the team’s game plan for Wiercioch and Blue Devils freshman right-hander Peyton St. George was simply better the second time around, allowing them to be more consistent at the plate, as opposed to any spark from the lineup change producing better results.
“I don’t think it was the lineup change, I just think it was the fact that we came in with a plan,” Gumpf said. “I don’t think we came in with a good enough plan the first time we faced her, and we came in with a much better plan the second time we faced her.”
Now, the Irish will look to bounce back from their first ACC series defeat since March 25 with a pair of midweek games at home against Western Michigan and Northwestern before traveling up to Brighton, Massachusetts, to take on Boston College. The first game is scheduled for Tuesday against Western Michigan, with first pitch at Melissa Cook Stadium scheduled for 5 p.m.