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Irish take two of three in thrilling series against Georgia Tech

| Monday, April 4, 2022

No. 25 Notre Dame softball earned a series win at home against ACC opponent Georgia Tech. The Irish saw their nine-game winning streak snapped in Friday’s opener, losing 9-8. However, they showed resilience to pick up two come-from-behind wins over the weekend, improving to 27-7 and 7-3 in ACC play.

Irish collapse late in Game 1

As would be a recurring theme throughout the series, Georgia Tech jumped out to a big lead early in Friday’s game. They scored one run in the second and added three more in the third off Irish senior pitcher Payton Tidd.  Graduate student Alexis Holloway replaced Tidd midway through the inning.

Down 4-0, Notre Dame responded with a big bottom half of the third. Freshman second baseman Jane Kronenberger and Holloway each drove in a pair, helping Notre Dame take a 5-4 lead before the inning ended. Notre Dame Associate Coach Kris Ganeff noted after the game that the Irish’s strong hitting helped the team remain confident even when facing a large deficit.

“We know offensively that we’re never really out of it. [Getting back in the game] was definitely the thing we did well tonight,” Ganeff said. “When they were up by four, we came back and scored five.”

With Holloway (coming off a no-hitter in her last appearance) shutting down the Georgia Tech bats in the fourth and fifth, Notre Dame gained some breathing room. They took a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fourth behind a solo home run from junior shortstop Brooke Marquez. Each side added a run in the sixth, and Notre Dame headed into the seventh with an 8-5 advantage.

Gracie Lee | The Observer
Freshman Jane Kronenberger swings at a pitch during Saturday’s contest versus Georgia Tech

Wildness dooms Irish

Georgia Tech used a pair of walks to put two runners on with one out. Notre Dame replaced Holloway with freshman Shannon Becker in the pitcher’s circle. Those two walks were among nine handed out by the Irish on the day. Ganeff mentioned that free passes were the biggest factor in their pitching struggles.

“We gave them too many free baserunners,” Ganeff said. “We knew what we needed to do against their hitters, it just didn’t turn out that way.”

After the pitching change, the Yellow Jackets scored on a walk and added two more on an error. Then, they took a 9-8 lead on a sacrifice bunt. They scored four runs on just one hit in the inning. The Irish were unable to respond at the plate, and Georgia Tech took the first game of the series. With two games still up for grabs, Notre Dame’s focus was on quickly pushing the disappointing loss out of their minds.

“Now we just park it, we let it go,” Ganeff said after Friday’s loss. “That’s how we have to approach it because we know that we have enough talent to win the games. Tomorrow we just have to start fresh.”

Irish bounce back in wild Game 2

Although the Irish started slow on Saturday, they ultimately did bounce back. Georgia Tech picked up where they left off in game two, using a home run to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Notre Dame had a quick answer, as sophomore first baseman Karina Gaskins hit a three-run shot to make the score 3-1 after one inning. After Georgia Tech trimmed the lead to one in the third, the Irish added two more to take a 5-2 lead into the fourth, which would prove to be a big inning for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech plated seven in the fourth and added a pair in the fifth, going up 11-5.

Just as in Friday’s game, though, Notre Dame’s fearsome lineup did not back down. The Irish scored three in the sixth and a seventh-inning home run from junior left fielder Leea Hanks cut the lead to 11-10. Down to their final out, Notre Dame scored on an error, sending the game into extra innings. After a scoreless eighth, a Georgia Tech home run put them up 12-11 in the ninth, but Hanks matched it with her second homer of the game to even the score again. With two runners on, junior pinch hitter Miranda Johnson was the hero, hitting a walk-off single to seal the 13-12 win for Notre Dame.

Game three brings more chaos, heroics

After all of the scoring, lead changes and comebacks of the first two games, the series-deciding finale brought more of the same. Notre Dame’s pitching struggles continued, as the Yellow Jackets’ first two batters each homered to set up a six-run first inning. The Irish scored three of their own to cut the deficit in half, and after each side added five runs in the second, which included a grand slam from the Irish’s Johnson in a follow-up to the previous day’s walk-off, the score stood at 11-8 after just two innings.

Entering the game at pitcher for Notre Dame to start the third, Becker kept Georgia Tech off the scoreboard for the next four innings as the Irish slowly chipped away at the lead. Notre Dame added one run in the fourth on a wild pitch before home runs from Hanks in the fifth, her third of the series, and Kronenberger in the sixth tied the game at 11-11.

Georgia Tech scored one in the top of the seventh and was one out away from winning before senior right fielder Emma Clark singled in a run to send the game into extras for the second consecutive day. The Yellow Jackets took a 13-12 lead in the top of the eighth and had the Irish down to their last out for the second time in the game when junior Joley Mitchell came in to pinch-hit with two runners on. Mitchell crushed the first pitch over the wall to straightaway center, making it two straight walk-off winners for Notre Dame and handing the Irish the series victory after an action-packed three games.

Notre Dame will be at home again on Tuesday to take on No. 9 Northwestern at 5 p.m.

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