RALEIGH, N.C. — The Irish noted the a win on the first day of the Big Ten / ACC Challenge, besting Illinois 1-0 in a Valentine’s Day defensive battle. Junior pitcher Alexis Holloway threw a complete game and earned the win, firing five strikeouts and surrendering just three hits through seven innings.
How it Happened
With Illinois first in the batter’s box, Holloway and the Irish made quick work of retiring the first three, fielding a groundout and later turning a double play from Marino to SS Brooke Marquez and 1B Miranda Johnson to end the top of the first.
Notre Dame struck quickly in the bottom of the first, as leadoff hitter Emma Clark slapped a single, stealing second on a subsequent play. Cleanup hitter Katie Marino launched a single to the wall, scoring Clark for what proved to be the only run of the game on both sides.
From there, the Irish and Illini earned the “Fighting” in their monikers with multiple three-up, three-down innings. In the second, Illinois batters did not reach base, due to a groundout to Holloway, a strikeout and pop to Marquez. On offense, Johnson singled and advanced to second on a Holloway bunt. Johnson was caught stealing, and Biggio grounded out to end the second.
It was a similar story in the third and fourth, as Holloway added two more strikeouts to her growing total and the Irish did not allow any Illini batters to reach base. At bat in the fourth, Marino was walked and stole second, but was unable to come home before three outs were made.
Illinois gained some momentum in the fifth, as Bella Loya singled. Zaria Dunlap entered as a pinch runner, but Irish catcher Shelby Grimm connected with Marquez to catch Dunlap stealing at second. Thanks to a Leea Hanks fielded fly and a Holloway strikeout, Illinois finished the fifth scoreless.
In the box, Holloway singled in the fifth, reaching third on a Marquez double. The two were left on base after a line-out and groundout.
Holloway earned her fifth strikeout of the day in the sixth as the Illini went three up, three down to remain scoreless. In the bottom half, while Abby Sweet reached first on an error, the inning ended on a groundout.
Holloway and the Irish turned in a quick seventh inning, as Sweet snagged a fly ball in center field, Grimm threw Gabi Robles out at second and Johnson fielded a pop fly on the first-base line.
Holloway improved to 3-1 with a 0.56 ERA on 25 innings pitched (two complete games) and 15 strikeouts on the season. She marked her first shutout of the 2020 slate, holding opponents to a .191 batting average.
Five Irish batters notched a hit Friday (Clark, Marino, Johnson, Holloway and Marquez), while Johnson led Notre Dame in putouts (8) from her position at first. The Illini left two batters on base and just five Illinois players reached base throughout the game.
Day Two of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will see the Irish face Ohio State (10 a.m.) and a rematch with Illinois (3 p.m.), before the final day of competition when Notre Dame takes on Ohio State (10 a.m.). Follow along on Twitter @NDSoftball for updates.