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Notre Dame finds success in Florida, records best finish of season

| Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Saturday, Notre Dame headed south to Kissimmee, Florida, for the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Up to this point in the season, the Irish had faced an extremely tough schedule, featuring six top-25 opponents before this past weekend. Thus, their trip to face unranked opponents Fordham, UAB, Iowa and Morgan State was a welcomed reprieve from their recent opponents. The Irish finished the Citrus Classic 3-1, marking their most successful weekend this the season.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Junior infielder Katie Marino prepares to make a play in Notre Dame’s matchup against North Carolina in Melissa Cook Stadium.

Saturday morning at noon, the Irish (7-7) faced off against Fordham (5-9) for each teams first game. After a scoreless first from Irish sophomore starting pitcher Alexis Holloway, the Irish struck in the bottom of the inning on a single off the bat of senior infielder Caitlyn Brooks, her first of two hits on the day, scoring senior outfielder Ali Wester, who bunted for a single to lead off the inning. However, Fordham seemed to begin to figure out Holloway in the second, scoring three runs, two of which came as the result of bases-loaded walks. After an inning and two thirds, Holloway was replaced by sophomore Morgan Ryan, who managed to keep the Fordham bats quiet. The Irish remained down 3-1 until the bottom of the sixth, when they erupted for five runs, including a massive three-run home run by junior second baseman Katie Marino to take the lead. The Irish would not relinquish their 6-3 lead as freshman Payton Tidd closed the game and sealed a comeback win for Notre Dame.

The second game of the day against UAB (8-7) came with much less drama than the first game. It was a tale of stellar pitching by Tidd (4 IP, 1 hit, 3 Ks, 0 ER) and Holloway (3 IP, 4 hits, 4Ks, 0 ER). The sophomore right-hander completed her bounce-back performance after her early exit in the morning game, marking a trend in the resilient play of the Irish over the weekend. The Notre Dame offense was also steady, led by Wester’s three hits, a two-run double by senior infielder Melissa Rockford and three other Irish players recording an RBI. Notre Dame’s four-run second inning staked the team to an early lead, and the Irish pitching took care of the rest in a dominant 6-0 win.

Sunday, the Irish faced Iowa and Morgan State, dropping their games against the Big Ten foe and bouncing back against the Bears. The Irish dropped a heartbreaker to Iowa (8-6), 2-1, in which Tidd was lights out, striking out 10 batters over six innings of work and allowing no earned runs. However, Tidd’s own error in the opening frame was the difference maker as Iowa capitalized and scored two runs early that the Irish were unable to make up.

However, Notre Dame, showing its developing resilience, followed up its unfortunate morning game by defeating Morgan State (0-10), 4-1. Holloway continued to improve on the weekend, throwing six innings and allowing one earned run on just three singles. The Notre Dame offense was again led by Brooks, who had a two-run single in the third to take a 3-1 lead. The Irish would add to their lead in the fourth and hold on for the win.

All in all, Notre Dame came away from their weekend at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with a .500 win percentage, and a solid 3-1 record against respectable competition, although not the level of competition they have been playing as of late. The Irish have defeated top teams including Washington, Oklahoma State and Ohio State, but continue to drop games to programs such as Iowa.

The Irish will aim for another successful weekend at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah.

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