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ND Softball

10-run first inning dooms Irish in regional opener against McNeese

| Friday, May 20, 2022

Notre Dame softball (39-11) suffered a crushing 11-1 loss against the McNeese State Cowgirls (38-19) in the first game of the Evanston regional. It only took five innings to decide the contest. Notre Dame lost by run-rule for only the second time this season. Their first came in an 11-3 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 17.

Longtime Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf turned to senior Payton Tidd as the starter for today’s game. Tidd had been Notre Dame’s best starter lately, pitching three shutouts in her last five outings. The Vista, California product entered today’s game with a 2.51 ERA and a 15-4 record.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Tidd had one of the worst outings of her career. She faced just six hitters, allowing five runs on five hits and recording just one out. It was part of an explosive first inning for McNeese who plated 10 in the inning, effectively ending the game before it started.

Ari Denning | The Observer

Error extends big first inning

Graduate student Alexis Holloway came into the game for Tidd. With the Irish down 3-0, she inherited runners on second and third. She walked the first hitter before giving up a bases-loaded single that scored two more runs.

Holloway then recorded the second out with a groundout to third base before inducing what should’ve been an inning-ending ground ball to first baseman and ACC Player of the Year Karina Gaskins. However, the ball went through Gaskins’ legs and the inning continued.

The miscue proved costly as McNeese added on and scored five more runs before the end of the inning. In total, McNeese sent 14 hitters to the plate. It took Notre Dame two pitchers and 55 pitches to record three outs. The 10-run first inning was the most they had allowed in an opening frame since April 3 when Georgia Tech hung six on the Irish.

McNeese starter Whitney Tate came in and pitched a quick first inning. It was the start of a great outing as she held Notre Dame to just one run in five innings. The only Notre Dame run came in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Carlli Kloss reached on an infield single between that scored graduate student outfielder Abby Sweet from third base.

Becker shines, but result holds

Star freshman Shannon Becker came into the game in the third inning and shut down the McNeese bats, allowing just two hits and one run over three innings in relief. Her efforts gave Notre Dame some hope. But despite having the leadoff hitter reach base in three different innings the Irish offense was unable to capitalize, leaving five hitters on base.

McNeese added an additional insurance run in the top of the fifth as star third baseman Jil Poullard got into a rundown between first and second that allowed a run to score from third. Poullard was outstanding for the Cowgirls, going 3-3 with a walk and scoring two runs while driving in two herself.

Down by ten heading to the bottom of the fifth, Notre Dame needed three runs to extend the game, but Tate shut the door on Notre Dame. Sarah Genz and Emma Clark ground out before a Leeah Hanks double into the left-center field gap brought Gaskins up to the plate. She promptly grounded out to first base to end the game.

The Irish entered the regional as the No. 2 seed in the region and had a regular-season win over hosts and Big Ten champions Northwestern. This win — combined with stellar pitching all year and the ACC POTY in Gaskins — meant Notre Dame came in with aspirations to move on to the super regionals and possibly beyond. Those hopes now hang in the balance as Notre Dame drops to the loser’s bracket where they will need to win four consecutive games to move on.

Notre Dame’s must-win elimination game will be tomorrow Saturday, May 21 at 3:30 pm in Evanston against the loser of the Northwestern-Oakland game.

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