It is the start of the new decade and the Notre Dame softball team has already made significant progress in their season with certain players already beginning to stand out. Senior Katie Marino was recently recognized as a candidate for the senior class award. She was also just honored as a recipient of the ACC postgraduate scholarship. Junior Abby Sweet was recently named the ACC Softball Player of the Week for her solid performance during the Mary Nutter Classic. The team as a whole has demonstrated solid performance in the matchups they’ve faced so far.
Although the Irish started their season with two defeats against Missouri and Auburn, during the opening day of the 2020 NCFA Leadoff Classic, they managed to seal two victories the next day against Missouri State and Ole Miss. On the last day, they clinched one more win against South Alabama to improve their tournament record to 3-2. Junior pitcher Alexis Holloway was named to the NCFA Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team for her solid performance over the weekend.
Then, the team traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to face Illinois and Ohio State for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. On Valentine’s Day, they defeated Illinois by one run, and during the second day, they clinched another victory (10-1) over Illinois. They also defeated Ohio State by nine run. Their solid performance on the second day consisted of the team collecting four home runs while imposing 16 strikeouts on their opponents. On the third day, the team dominated Ohio State once more (6-4), improving their season record to 7-2. They remained undefeated during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and thus helped the ACC to win the Challenge for the third time in four years.
A week later, they traveled to Cathedral City, Calif. to compete in the Mary Nutter Classic, which is known for hosting top-ranked college softball teams from around the country. Although they lost to San-Diego 3-2 on the first day, they nevertheless trampled over BYU 11-1 that same day. They started off their second day by defeating Seattle 6-4 before encountering a tough loss to Oregon 5-1. Finally, they defeated Arizona State 7-3 before facing another loss — albeit a close match — to California State Fullerton. Overall, the team finished the tournament with a record of three wins and three losses.
Finally, the team traveled to Durham, N.C. to play against their ACC rival Duke. Thanks to the team’s solid performance, head coach Deanna Gumpf recorded her 750th career win when the team beat the Blue Devils 6-2. The next day, the team clinched another victory over Duke 1-0, despite the first five innings being scoreless. Their following ACC series was not as successful, however, as the North Carolina State Wolfpack swept the Irish in a three-game series.
Just as ACC play began and the team was starting to find their groove, they, like other sports teams on Notre Dame’s campus, received news that their season was being cut short due to concerns over the coronavirus. While the NCAA has already ruled that these athletes will retain the year of eligibility that they would have used this year, it was a crushing end to a promising season for the softball team. With many of the same players returning next season and a skilled group of freshmen coming in, the softball team hopes to continue their rise towards national prominence next spring.