Irish sweep final road series against top-25 Virginia Tech
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, April 26, 2021
The Notre Dame softball team pocketed yet another series win with their sweep of Virginia Tech this weekend. With this victory, the Irish (26-12, 17-10 ACC) boast four top-25 wins. Head coach Deanna Gumpf gained her 778th-career win by the end of the contest. This is the first ACC series Virginia Tech has lost all season.
In the first game Friday, junior outfielder Emma Clark stole second, reaching third on a Virginia Tech error in an attempt to get her out while stealing. She was the first to reach home after a sac fly from graduate student infielder Katie Marino brought Clark in from third, and the Irish were up 1-0. Senior pitcher Alexis Holloway struck out two batters during her first run in the circle, making quick work of the Hokies, who were unable to score in the inning. This pattern continued in the second as two more Hokies were sat down by Holloway, and with both teams unable to score, the Irish remained ahead as they entered into the third inning.
Come to the fifth inning, the score remained unchanged. A single from senior outfielder Abby Sweet sent Holloway home, making it 2-0 in favor of Notre Dame. The Hokies were only able to get one run before the end of the match, and the Irish took home the win (2-1).
Sweet was also named a top-25 finalist for USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year Award this weekend. This honor is largely regarded as the most prestigious in Division I women’s collegiate softball, recognizing extraordinary talent across the nation. She is the third Irish player in history to be nominated, and is one of four ACC players included in the honor this year.
The second game of the day proved to be a closer contest. In the second inning, junior catcher Shelby Grimm clocked a run for the Irish after efforts from freshman infielder Karina Gaskins, sophomore outfielder Leea Hanks, junior pitcher Payton Tidd and graduate student infielder Chelsea Purcell at-bat. Purcell quickly stole second, and freshman infielder Cassidy Grimm launched a double to score Hanks and Purcell, earning her first career extra-base hit. Because of this, the Irish emerged from the inning up by three, having kept the Hokies off the board (3-0).
The Irish extended their lead in the next inning as Marino reached the plate after a hit from Hanks. However, the Hokies quickly rebounded. With the bases loaded, Tidd became confined to the circle on a fielder’s choice ball, giving Virginia Tech the opportunity needed to gain two runs. By the end of the inning, they had tied the score 4-4.
In the fifth, Cassidy Grimm was able to score, and Clark immediately followed her home. The Hokies were only able to chip away one run from the Irish lead, and with senior pitcher Morgan Ryan entering the circle, the Hokies were unable to score again, handing the game to the Irish (6-5).
Saturday’s game proved to be an arduous one for the Irish, who were able to pull out a win after a nine-inning game. Holloway opened the game pitching three strikeouts in the first two innings and was able to hold the Hokies off until the bottom of the third. After a throwing error from the Irish offense, Virginia Tech led 2-0 heading into the fourth.
Hanks was a force to be reckoned with in the fifth, stealing third and speeding home after an attempt to get her out. After this, Purcell’s defensive play proved to be too much for the Hokies, and the score remained 2-1 at the top of the sixth.
Another error from Virginia Tech allowed Sweet to reach home on a single from Marino to tie the game. The teams went back and forth in runs; the Hokies hit an RBI single to give themselves the lead once more, only to be followed by a solo home run from Holloway. They entered a ninth inning when the score remained tied, and senior infielder Sarah Genz hit her first home run of the season to put the Irish ahead, and eventually ensured their series-clinching win.
Coming off of this momentum, the Irish came into Sunday’s matchup knowing they had claimed the series. However, this did not diminish their efforts, and they swept Virginia Tech with a 3-1 win. They are now 5-7 in their contests against ranked teams this season.
Home runs proved to be the key to Sunday’s match. Tidd pitched a complete game, and was able to keep the Hokies scoreless heading into the third. Purcell reached home, putting the Irish up 1-0. Virginia Tech was unable to tie the game until the fifth, as Tidd and the defense continued to seat batters.
The sixth inning was the game-changer for the Irish, as solo home runs from Gaskins and junior infielder Quinn Biggio (her fifth of the year) allowed Notre Dame to lead 3-1. Both teams went three up, three down in the seventh, ensuring the series sweep.
Notre Dame looks ahead to play their rescheduled game against DePaul on Wednesday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m., which can be streamed on ACCNX. They will then move on to play their annual Strike Out Cancer weekend in a doubleheader on Saturday, May 1, to raise both awareness and funds for those fighting childhood cancer and their families.