Midway through the season, the Notre Dame softball team (13-8, 6-6) is hitting its stride — literally, in a sense.
The Irish have won six of their last eight games behind strong offensive performances from senior Abby Sweet, freshman Karina Gaskins, junior Emma Clark and graduate student Katie Marino. Notre Dame’s overall batting average (.304) and slugging percentage (.514) both rank second in the ACC.
Sweet leads the ACC in batting average (.529) among players with more than five at-bats, followed by Gaskins (.463). Clark, batting .422, is also ranked in the top-10 in the conference.
Sweet earned her second ACC Player of the Week honors of the season after Notre Dame’s mid-March series at North Carolina. The captain batted .714 in the series, a 10-for-14 outing that included two home runs, three doubles and four RBIs. In the two Saturday games of the weekend series, the Irish won 13-0 and 4-0 behind a combined 28 hits.
Through 20 games, Sweet’s 36 hits rank first in the ACC, and her eight stolen bases tie the conference lead. Earlier in the season, Sweet earned ACC Co-Player of the Week awards after posting a 1.176 slugging percentage and .529 batting average in the Liberty Classic, where the Irish faced Liberty and Villanova.
Meanwhile, Gaskins leads the ACC in slugging percentage (1.098) throughout the season and is tied for the conference lead in home runs with seven. In Notre Dame’s recent series at Georgia Tech, the freshman hit four home runs in consecutive at-bats, bringing in 10 combined RBIs. She also tied Notre Dame’s program record for home runs in one game with three. Clark also posted a strong performance in the Georgia Tech series, batting .643.
Junior Payton Tidd leads the pitching rotation with an ERA of 1.70, which ranks seventh in the ACC. She has allowed 45 hits in 53.2 innings and tallied 40 strikeouts. In a season highlight, Tidd, senior Morgan Ryan and senior Alexis Holloway combined for a no-hitter in their game against Alabama State. In the 13-0 victory, Tidd was credited with the win — her first of the year — and has gone on to notch a 6-4 record on the season.
The same trio also combined for a no-hitter against Valparaiso on March 24. This time, Holloway was credited with the win as the Irish won their home opener 8-0. Graduate student Chelsea Purcell batted 3-for-3 with three RBIs and hit a home run, her second of the year.
That game against Valparaiso marked the first home game for the Irish since the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. Before the season was halted, Notre Dame had compiled a 13-9 record.
The Irish are at a similar mark in the midst of the 2021 season — with an added year of growth as every starter from last year returned this season. Head coach Deanna Gumpf said before the season that she was excited to “have our entire core back.” A longtime coach in her 20th season, Gumpf has taken the added challenges of her second COVID-19-altered season in stride, and she explained that the team moved at a slower pace this offseason to ensure they were ready for the season.
Midway through the season, the work is paying off for a dynamic team that has won six of its last eight games. However, the Irish have tough tests approaching as they face two currently ranked opponents in April: No. 12 Florida State at the beginning of the month and No. 15 Virginia Tech a few weeks after. Notre Dame already faced off against No. 18 Duke, winning the first matchup of the series but dropping the second and third games. They also played No. 8 Alabama early in the season, losing that contest 10-0.
“They’re so prepared and know what to expect,” Gumpf said before the season, adding that the team has embraced a flexible mindset. “I just know that whatever the day brings, we’re going to take it and we’re going to make the best of it.”