Continuity and commitment: Notre Dame Softball dominates 2022 season
Madeline Ladd | Friday, May 13, 2022
With a stellar 39-9 record, No. 21 Notre Dame softball wrapped up their 2022 regular season play in a three-game, dominating sweep against Louisville. This final home win earned the Irish the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament.
The Irish ladies faced a tough schedule all year, battling several ranked and powerful teams. Nevertheless, their strength offensively and defensively, paired with a focus on what head coach Deanna Gumpf refers to as the “little things,” contributed to a successful season and created an optimistic postseason outlook.
“Looking back — which is nice to be able to do now that we are finished with regular season play — there are so many little things that we did really, really well this season,” Gumpf said. “It honestly started with the commitment. I think this team is on a new level on the commitment spectrum. Each day, they do things a little bit differently to be a little bit better. That, to me, has been the number one thing this team has done.”
Versatile Irish win in different ways
Skill and grit both in the field and at the plate allowed the Irish to win these ball games and go 16-5 in ACC play. In terms of pitching, graduate student Alexis Holloway shone on the mound, leading the team to victory against teams like No. 16 Clemson. Named ACC Pitcher of the Week for this no-hitter performance, Holloway was a consistent force throughout the season. Fellow pitcher and senior Payton Tidd also earned this ACC accolade as well thanks to her stellar seven-inning performance against No. 6 Northwestern. Freshman Shannon Becker is on the rise as well, showing up and delivering when needed, demonstrating sheer dedication and potential.
In addition, attitude was an important part of the team’s success. Upperclassmen helped to establish a precedent of excellence and encouraged underclassmen to share their love of the game. With seven graduate students and seniors combined, there were several leaders to set an example.
“The super seniors and the senior class — the seven of them — have done a remarkable job of leading,” Gumpf said. “They’ve worked so hard together. Without the seven of those girls being ‘all in,’ it’s really tough on the young ones. But, these seniors have demonstrated they are ‘all in’ and have helped the young ones so much. They have played big roles in our successes.”
Underclassmen provide offensive boost
Though the upperclassmen paved this positive path initially, the underclassmen found their footing early and made their presence known. Sophomore first baseman Karina Gaskins was named a Top 25 finalist for 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. She currently leads the ACC with 49 RBI on the season. Freshman infielder Jane Kronenberger proved to be a key offensive piece for the Irish as well, having been named a Top 25 finalist for Freshman of the Year.
“Right there, you are talking about two people who have come out with a bang,” Gumpf said.
In addition to these two standout players, other freshmen and sophomores on the team made a name for themselves with big plays offensively and defensively. This proves that there is promise among the freshman and sophomore classes.
Irish move past tough losses
However, like any elite team, Notre Dame softball faced challenges along the way. Tough losses against teams like Virginia and Clemson momentarily shook the Irish but did not put them out. “The best times come out the toughest times,” Gumpf noted. It was in turning points like these that the Irish were able to truly find their way and their identity.
“I think it’s super cool to see how the tough times in our season helped to make us better,” Gumpf said. “Like the way we recovered from the Virginia weekend and became a better team because of it. I’m super proud of [how] we just found ways. We found it one game in pitching, or hitting or creating great ways to score runs. One day it‘s a huge play defensively. That’s what makes this team really special. We just find a ton of ways to win ball games.”
Looking ahead to the postseason, Gumpf and her team know what they have to do, and are ready to execute confidently. With a team that works together well and “knows how special they are,” as Gumpf says, there is lots of potential for the Irish to perform well.
“I think we’re in a really good place,” Gumpf said. “I love the way we are playing the game right now. If we continue playing the way we are right now, great things are going to happen.”
Though their regular season has come to an end, there is still a chance to catch Notre Dame softball in action. The Irish started their ACC Tournament play on Thursday, May 12 against Clemson. After the ACC Tournament, they‘ll await their NCAA Tournament placement. There, they‘ll try and qualify for the first Super Regional in program history, after falling one game shy last year.