After a year of waiting to get to post season, the Fightin’ Irish faced off against Virginia Tech in Lousiville. There is always a game within the game. In Thursday’s match up it needed to be about crisp play on both sides of the ball. Riding a fourteen game winning streak the Fightin’ Irish wanted to carry that momentum into the weekend. VT wanted to continue to play as well. With Alexis Holloway on the mound, the Fightin’ Irish went to their “Ace” to kick the post season off on a strong note.
Innings One Through Three
Abby Sweet worked a 3-1 count and was walked by VT Pitcher Kelly Rochard. After an Emma Clark strikeout, Katie Marino reached on a fielder’s choice and Sweet is thrown out at second base. Like baseball, you need to make good decisions when it comes to base-running. Marino stole second base, and the ball from the catcher gets loose into short center field and Marino attempts to advance on the errant throw, but is thrown out at third base to end the Irish half of the inning. An opportunity missed on the attempted to keep the inning going.
VT makes the Irish pay for the error in their half of the inning. Kelsey Brown sends the ball back through the middle for a single. Brown who has speed, steals second base successfully. Cameron Fagan tripled to right center to score Brown and records the RBI. Alexa Milius singled to score Fagan and puts VT up 2-0. Coach Gumpf attempts to settle her ace down and comes out to talk to Holloway. Holloway got of the inning with no further damage and a manageable deficit to work out of.
Getting the offense started was a difficult task for the Fightin’ Irish. Rochard gets a three up, three down in the top of the second inning. Not letting the Fightin’ Irish try and find some momentum.
In the defensive portion of the inning, Holloway had a struggle with control. Walking Addy Greene on four straight pitches. Holloway then struck out Emma Ritter for the first out. Darby Trull of VT doubled to left centerfield easily scoring Greene. Holloway exited after 1.3 innings pitched and a 3-0 deficit. Coach Gumpf went to her bullpen for Payton Tidd. Tidd was able to close out the inning on the next two batters she faced. VT leads 3-0 after two innings of play.
The offense for the Fightin’ Irish just could not break Rochard. Rochard pitched a gem of an inning as she once again retired all three batters for the Irish. Tidd allowed only a single to Milius in the third inning. Tidd retired the next three batters with some great defense behind her to end the inning.
Fourth Through Seventh Innings
The fourth inning saw the Fightin’ Irish bats come alive. Sweet reached on a throwing error by VT. After Clark lined out, Sweet stole second base. Marino doubles to right field and scoring Sweet to pick up the RBI and the deficit is now 3-1. But the Irish would not score again in the inning. The Irish left the bases loaded and could not scratch out another run.
Tidd, worked into a jam early in the bottom half of the inning. Greene singled up the middle for a single. Ritter tripled to right field to score Greene and pick up an RBI and a score of 4-1. Tidd was able get the next three batters out to shutdown the inning and hold the score to 4-1.
The Irish bats still had some life in them. Sweet started the inning off with a single to right center. Clark singled to third on a bunt, Sweet advances to second and onto third on the throwing error by the third basemen. Good spot for the Irish with runners on the corner with two outs. Clark steals second base, runners now on second and third. Marino reached base after being hit by pitch to load the bases. Another huge opportunity for the Irish to put runs on the board, but Rochard gets Karina Gaskins to strikeout and ends the inning. Bases juiced again and no runs for the Irish.
Tidd had a fabulous inning as she struck out one batter and worked out two fly outs to centerfield and right field to end the inning. Tidd was keeping the Irish in the contest for sure.
The Irish were not giving up that’s for sure. Leea Hanks reached on a single to second base to start the inning off. Sarah Genz reached on a fielder’s choice and Hanks was thrown out at second. The next two batter’s flied out and struck out to end the inning. Time for sure was running out on the Irish.
Tidd did what she needed to do, she didn’t let VT score. Mackenzie Lawter reached on an error from Chelsea Purcell. Maddy Federico pinch ran for Lawter in trying to get some speed on the bases. Federico steals second after Greene popped out. Tidd got the next two batters to fly out and ground out to end the inning.
In an attempt to get some offense going in the last frame, Coach Gumpf pinch hit for Shelby Grimm and brought in Quinn Biggio. The attempt did not yield a hit. In their last chances to score, Biggio flied out, Sweet struck out swinging and Clark flied out to end the ball game. The fourteen game winning streak comes to an end in Louisville as the Irish fall 4-1 in the quarterfinals.
Next up for the Fightin’ Irish is a date with the NCAA Tournament Selection show. The question will be, did they do enough in the regular season to make to the NCAA College World Series? The answer should be “yes” to that question. Going deep into the tournament this weekend would have solidified a chance to play. Missed opportunities with the bases loaded are the moments the Irish had back from Thursday’s game.