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DelVecchio: Irish look to ride experience to success in ’19

| Friday, February 8, 2019

After a strong 2018 campaign, Notre Dame is eager to pick up the 2019 season right where it left off.

Last year, Notre Dame (0-1, 0-1 ACC) advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 20th straight season and 23rd overall in program history. The Irish finished the 2018 season with six wins over ranked opponents and a record of 34-23 overall and 13-10 in conference play. After earning the fifth seed in the ACC tournament, Notre Dame saw its season end at the hands of eventual ACC and national champion Florida State.

This year, for the third time since joining the conference in 2014, the Irish have been selected as No. 2 in the preseason ACC poll, behind only the Seminoles.

The Irish opened up the 2019 season last night against Duke, suffering a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Blue Devils (1-0, 1-0). The game is just the first of four that Notre Dame will play at a the three-day Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Over the remainder of the weekend, the Irish will take on Liberty, No. 9 South Carolina and No. 3/2 Washington.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Notre Dame senior Caitlyn Brooks steps up to bat in an Irish game at Melissa Cook Stadium.

This season, the Irish have the benefit of experience. Notre Dame is the returning of eight of their nine leading hitters from last season, as well as three of their four starting pitchers.

Two standout returners are sophomores Abby Sweet and Alexis Holloway.

Sweet was one of 15 league players voted to the Preseason All-ACC team by the conference’s head coaches. In her freshman season, the star center fielder started all 57 games for the Irish, and was second on the team with a .333 batting average and 57 hits. Sweet also led the team in doubles with 13, steals with 15, on-base percentage with .420 and runs scored with 38. At the conclusion of last season, Sweet was named to both the 2018 ACC All-Freshman Team and All-ACC Second Team. The slugger was also a consistent hitter with runners on base, batting .386 when she had teammates in scoring position. She also recorded 13 two-out RBIs, second on the team.

Sophomore Alexis Holloway also headlines a strong list of Irish returners heading into the season with her ability and dependability. Out of the 374.1 innings Notre Dame was on the field for last season, Holloway pitched in 228 of them. Holloway posted a team-best 2.55 ERA to earn her a 22-15 record in 45 appearances. Her prodigious workload allowed her to become just the third Notre Dame freshman pitcher in program history to earn first-team all-region honors. Holloway, like Sweet, also earned a spot on the 2018 All-ACC Second Team and 2018 ACC All-Freshman Team.

With two underclassmen leading the way in Sweet and Holloway, the Irish will look to bounce back from Duke to have a successful weekend.

If coach Gumpf’s squad continues its recent track record of success this season, it will be due in large part to the continued stellar play from its blossoming center fielder and workhorse starting pitcher.

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