‘I’m pumped’: Coach Gumpf ready for Irish to take on 3 ranked opponents at Clearwater Elite Invitational
Mannion McGinley | Thursday, February 17, 2022
Coming off a 5-0 weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Green and Gold Classic, Irish softball takes on another 5-game long weekend at the Clearwater Elite Invitational.
There, Notre Dame will face three ranked teams in No. 18/15 Tennessee, No. 21/22 LSU and, to close the weekend, No. 10/8 Texas. They’ll also take on a USF team that received votes and Wisconsin.
Head coach Deanna Gumpf isn’t daunted by that schedule, though. She said it’s actually the most exciting part about the weekend for her.
“I’m so excited for this weekend, for a variety of reasons,” she said. “I just love this kind of competition. Because what it does is, it shows you where you’re at and it really will show you things you need to work on. And this time of year, this is when you want to see it.”
Gumpfs’ excitement isn’t without reason either. Winning by increasing margins this past weekend over Bucknell, Boston University and Charlotte, the largest being 16-1, Gumpf has well-placed faith in her squad.
“When you look at how we played that first weekend, the one thing that we know we’re pretty darn good,” Gumpf said. “I think if you think about things that we learned, we learned that you know, we’re a pretty darn good team and we need to own it. And we need to be consistent with that because we know how good we are now. Now we just own it and attack it.”
The Irish looked so strong to Gumpf last weekend, they were able to start 16 different players.
She said there’s still competition for certain positions because they’re all playing that well, and “for them to produce the way that they produced, that was pretty cool,” she said.
Turning to the weekend at hand though, Gumpf laid out the mindset for the Clearwater matchups.
“With a weekend like this, we really have to do a great job of just dealing with the job at hand,” she said. “So, if you look at the whole schedule, it looks a little bit daunting. But if you just take it one game at a time, it’s no different than finals week, right? Like you just got to take it one game at a time and one pitch at a time, one inning at a time and just deal with what’s in front of us and what we’re dealing with at that moment and worry about the other stuff later.”
With a squad total of 49 runs over 57 hits and 19 doubles, in just the five games, strong at-bats seem within reach for the Irish. This stands especially with continued leadership from the outfield stronghold made up of graduate student Abby Sweet, senior Emma Clark and junior Leea Hanks who combined for 22 of those runs. They, alongside junior Joley Mitchell, sophomore Karina Gaskins and graduate student Sarah Genz, led the offensive push and can again this weekend.
“We have some really great leaders on offense in Abby, Emma and Leea, and we continue to get better,” Gumpf said. “We really want to grow as a team in the next few weeks coming up and [having that leadership] is a big part of it.”
Despite that goal at the plate, Gumpf acknowledged they’ll be facing what she called some of the top pitchers in the country.
“When you do that, your hope is that against each of them that you get a little bit better,” she said.
Bright and early Thursday morning, the Irish will face SEC co-pitcher of the week, Ashley Rogers.
“Rogers is a very, very good pitcher,” Gumpf said. “She has a great rise ball and a great off-speed and she uses them all over the zone. So, the best way we can attack her is to attack her pitches in the zone.”
Gumpf acknowledged, though, that the Irish have found success on the mound themselves, and hope to continue to do so in Florida. Veteran pitchers senior Payton Tidd and graduate student Alexis Holloway took freshman pitcher Shannon Becker under their wing, ultimately strengthening the Irish rotation on the mound, according to Gumpf.
“She’s gonna be a huge contributor for us,” she said. “And I think that Payton and Alexis have done such a great job of really guiding her and helping her and really, the three of them work together very, very well. I think when you look at a pitching staff, sometimes it gets pretty competitive. Sometimes, you know, there’s a little rivalry within the bullpen. But with these three, they take such good care of each other.”
The Irish clash with the Volunteers at 10 a.m. on Thursday followed by the Badgers at 6:30 p.m. The games will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN+, respectively. Friday at 3 p.m., the Irish will take on USF on the ACC Network followed by LSU at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday on the SEC Network. To close the weekend, the Irish face their biggest challenge in the Texas Longhorns at 11 a.m., back on ESPN+.