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ND Softball

Irish sweep Eagles in Senior Weekend with two shutout ballgames

| Monday, May 10, 2021

At the close of the regular season, the Irish swept yet another series this weekend as the team went 3-0 against rival Boston College. The fourth game of the contest was canceled due to the rain on Sunday. This series win marks Notre Dame softball’s (31-12, 20-10 ACC) third undefeated home season in program history (15-0). This year was the first time this achievement has happened in over a decade, as the last undefeated season occurred in 2010 (19-0). Additionally, this is the team’s 32nd 30-win season; last year’s shortened season was the only one to not reach this record.

Furthermore, the Irish hold a record of 19 consecutive home game wins, continuing the streak that started in 2019. They also hold a 14-game winning streak as the postseason approaches.

The first game proved to be a shutout, with the Irish taking the day (1-0). After senior pitcher Alexis Holloway struck out three batters in the first inning, senior outfielder Abby Sweet took her fourth hit-by-pitch of the season. She proceeded to steal second and eventually made it home after an attempt by BC to get her out at third. Her run would be the sole score of the game, even as Notre Dame ended with the bases loaded for several innings of the day.

Saturday proved to be one of equal domination for the Irish, with several players having outstanding performances. In the first game of the day, junior Payton Tidd pitched a complete game. The Eagles were able to score in the first inning, but the Irish quickly came back. Sweet and junior outfielder Emma Clark stole bases at the same time, and both were able to score by the end of the inning (2-1).

The pair has acted as a bit of a dynamic duo this season, with both players posting stellar seasons and each proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the ballgames. Head coach Deanna Gumpf spoke on this dynamic.

“[Clark is] such a tough out,” Gumpf said. “If Abby Sweet doesn’t get on base, we know that Emma will, and that one-two punch all year long has just given us opportunity after opportunity after opportunity offensively.”

The next two innings were scoreless, with both teams going three up, three down in the third. In the fourth, the Irish loaded the bases, and a single from Clark scored Tidd and graduate student infielder Chelsea Purcell. This put the Irish up 4-1. 

BC was able to score at the top of the fifth to halve the Irish’s score. The sixth proved to be the inning of erratic pitches. Purcell reached third after a wild pitch from BC, and another single from Clark brought her home. Sweet and Clark took bases in similar fashion, and another wayward pitch allowed Sweet to score. Freshman infielder Karina Gaskins doubled to score Clark, and a two-run homer from sophomore outfielder Leea Hanks extended the lead to 9-2. Sophomore infielder/outfielder Miranda Johnson shot a single to score senior infielder Sarah Genz, making the final score 10-2.

The second game was the second shutout of the weekend. Senior pitcher Morgan Ryan entered the circle and was able to sit the Eagles down in order to start off the game. Sweet and graduate student infielder Katie Marino landed on base.

Gaskins then entered the fray, launching a home run to score the three of them (3-0). Gaskins was able to score three more runners in the next inning, as her double brought home Sweet, Clark and freshman infielder Cassidy Grimm. Hanks immediately forced an error, and Gaskins herself was then able to score (7-0).

Gumpf noted how far Gaskins’ gameplay has progressed this season. Despite the “roller coaster ride” of a season, the freshman has shown herself to be powerful at bat and in the field. Gumpf debated moving Gaskins down the batting lineup in an attempt to let her receive better pitches but decided to give her one more week where she was.

“I love the way that she responded,” Gumpf said. “I mean, she just exploded, and each at-bat got better and better and better.”

Clark scored again in the fourth, taking advantage of a wild pitch. Hanks followed again with another home run to score two players to end the inning 10-0. 

Hanks is another player who has been on a consistent progression all season and has demonstrated her strength as an athlete both offensively and defensively. Saturday was one of the clearest examples of this.

“Holy cow, she showed the power that we all knew she had, but I’m not quite sure the rest of the conference knew she had the power,” Gumpf said. “I just love where she’s at because it’s hard to keep her off the bases, and when she gets on she’s trouble, so I love her power; I love her speed; I love how she can mix in a drag bunt to find herself on base. She’s just so dynamic.”

As the defense was able to prevent BC from scoring in the fifth, the game ended as a five-inning shutout.

“They always bring their best game and they always come here with something to prove,” Gumpf said of their opponent. “I love the way that we responded after the first game because that was a tough one.”

Three senior players were honored at the end of the ballgame: Marino, Purcell and Ryan. Gumpf had nothing but praise for each of the students.

Marino is a fifth-year senior for the Irish and has played most of her time at second base. Gumpf believes that Marino is one of the best second basemen in the country.

“[Marino] has just been such a rock for us her entire career,” Gumpf said. “She is just absolutely consistent, rarely makes a mistake, and just does all things well in softball. I mean, she runs well, she hits with power, she has speed, and then obviously her defense is phenomenal. So, I’m just so proud of her and I feel so lucky that we were able to have her for her fifth year.”

Purcell is another fifth-year senior who found her home at shortstop this season. She had previously bounced around, playing several different positions on the field. Because of this, Gumpf said, they were initially unsure of where she would wind up.

“Being able to transition to shortstop when we needed her the most — and not only just transitioning to shortstop, but becoming, again, truly one of the best shortstops that I’ve seen — I’m just so proud of the game she brought and how committed, and how her confidence just went to a whole ’nother level and really helped our team win a lot of ballgames,” Gumpf said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Chelsea Purcell.”

Ryan is a true senior, having completed her fourth year for the Irish. She has been one of three pitchers rotating in and out of the circle and has posted several solid performances for the team.

“I think [Saturday] was a great example of who she’s become as a pitcher for us,” Gumpf said. “She has become so reliable and we have become so dependent on her to be one of the three who we can throw at any time to help each other out … I’m so proud of how she’s developed.”

The Irish now look ahead to the postseason, with their first stop being the ACC Championship. They will take on Virginia Tech on Thursday, May 13.

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