Irish secure first ACC series win, look ahead to first home game of the year
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, March 24, 2021
This past weekend, the Irish (12-8, 6-6 ACC) traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, for a four-game weekend series, looking to close out a long road trip through the Southeast with their first conference series win of the season.
They kicked off the series against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Friday, in what quickly became a duel between the starting pitchers. Junior Payton Tidd was solid throughout. She pitched 6.2 innings while scattering just five hits and earning her fifth win of the season. Entering the last inning with the score sitting at 2-2, fifth-year senior and second baseman Katie Marino left her mark on the game, hitting a bases-clearing double to put the Irish up 5-2. The Yellow Jackets responded with a run of their own, but senior Alexis Holloway emphatically answered her call from the bullpen, striking out the last batter of the game to earn her first save of the season and give the Irish the win with a 5-3 score.
In the first game of the double-header Saturday, the Irish found themselves in a back-and-forth offensive battle. They found great production at the top of the lineup, with the first four hitters in the order spraying five singles and two extra-base hits throughout the yard, but they ultimately came up just short, losing by a score of 7-8. Senior pitcher Morgan Ryan earned her first loss of the year on 2.1 innings pitched.
The second game was anything but back and forth, with the Irish jumping on early and finishing strong, winning by a score of 9-1 in just 5 innings by way of the mercy rule. The Irish hit five home runs as a team, three of which came from standout first-year first baseman Karina Gaskins. Tidd was dominant in the circle, retiring 15 of the 21 batters she faced, moving her record to 6-4 on the year.
On Sunday, the Irish again started hot, scoring five runs in the first three innings. The top of the order did most of the damage, including a solo home run from senior outfielder Abby Sweet, who extended her on-base streak to 36 games. That was more than enough to secure the win while Holloway held it down in the circle. Holloway allowed just two runs in five innings pitched, good for a record of 6-3 on the year. The Irish took the game by a score of 6-2, and the series 3-1.
While the Irish accomplished the goal of a first conference series win, they still have expectations to live up to. They sit at seventh in the ACC standings, while holding the second-best team batting average (.304) and fourth-best team earned run average (2.04).
For now, they’ll have to shift their focus to the Valparaiso Crusaders (5-11, 1-2 MVC), who will travel to Melissa Cook Stadium on March 24 when the Irish host their first home game of the season. While the Irish are the clear favorites on paper, first-year hurler Caitlyn Kowalski of the Crusaders could present a challenge. She currently boasts an ERA of 3.43 and has three complete games in eight starts.
Students wishing to attend the home opener this Wednesday will be expected to show current identification. Physically-distanced seating will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.