Irish dominate Saturday doubleheader, split series with UNC
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, March 15, 2021
After a strong showing in the 2021 Liberty Classic in Lynchburg, Va., where Notre Dame took four out of five from Liberty and Villanova, the Irish softball team looked to build off of their success as they traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a four-game weekend series. Projected to finish 3rd in the ACC this year, the Irish (9-7, 3-5 ACC) looked to bounce back in conference play against the Tar Heels after a 1-3 start.
It was a slow start to the weekend as North Carolina (10-8, 6-3 ACC) won the opener by a score of 6-0. The Irish only produced six base runners and allowed three unearned runs. Senior pitcher Alexis Holloway allowed just five hits and struck out eight in 4.2 innings, but her five walks allowed much more opportunity for the Tar Heels.
Fortunately, the disappointment was short lived as the Irish were scorching hot out of the gate on Saturday afternoon, winning the first game by a score of 13-0. As a team, they amassed 17 hits, five of which came from senior centerfielder Abby Sweet while freshman first baseman Karina Gaskins and sophomore designated player Miranda Johnson also added three hits of their own. Junior and senior pitchers Payton Tidd and Morgan Ryan combined for the three-hit shutout. Tidd collected the win, moving her record in the circle to 3-4 on the year.
This success carried over into the next game as well, where the Irish took the third game of the series by a score of 4-0. The offense came in the sixth inning in the form of two two-run home runs, one by Gaskins and one by junior pinch hitter Quinn Biggio. The star of the game was Holloway who pitched a complete game shutout, only allowing three hits and striking out six.
The Irish were looking to ride this high to their first ACC series win of the season, but they came up just short, losing the final game on Sunday by a score of 2-1. Tidd and senior preseason All-ACC pitcher Brittany Pickett of UNC were both dominant in the circle, but the Tar Heels were able to push one more run across in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Irish were unable to answer.
A player to watch for the Irish as the year goes on is Sweet, who extended her on-base streak to an impressive total of 32 games, dating back to last season. She is now leading the ACC in batting average (.560), on-base percentage (.593), hits (28) and doubles (8).
Moving forward, the Irish look to showcase the dominant ball club that showed up on Saturday and put together a conference series win. Their next shot comes this weekend as they travel to Atlanta for a series with Georgia Tech (8-15, 3-11 ACC). This will be the last of their road series before they finally come home to Melissa Cook Stadium on Mar. 24.