PUERTO VALLARTA, Jal., Mexico – A dream start for the University of Notre Dame softball team ultimately unraveled in the seventh inning, as four South Carolina runs in the final ups pushed the Gamecocks past the Irish 7-4 on Saturday at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
Notre Dame (1-2) raced out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning, but managed only one run on three hits for the rest of the contest. No. 9 South Carolina (3-1) did not gain its first advantage in the game until the winning run walked in with one out in the top of the seventh.
HOW IT HAPPENED
A leadoff walk for South Carolina in the top of the first inning looked to start the Gamecock offense, but Alexis Holloway was up to the task. A popup and ground ball out to third, and a strikeout swinging ended the South Carolina ups.
Notre Dame erupted on offense in the bottom of the first. Abby Sweet ripped a one-out triple to left field to set the table for Katie Marino. Marino delivered a single to right center that scored Sweet and gave the Irish a 1-0 lead. Caitlyn Brooks followed with a deep home run to right field, her first of the year, to give the Irish a 3-0 advantage.
South Carolina struck with a solo home run in the top of the third and tied the game with a two-run shot in the fourth frame. Morgan Ryan entered in relief and quickly got a ground ball out to get out of the jam.
Ryan ran into trouble in the top of the sixth following a leadoff single, but Payton Tidd (0-1) was up to the challenge by forcing a lineout double play to shortstop and a foul ball out near third base.
Notre Dame took control once more in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brooks led off the frame with her second home run of the game, a solo shot over the wall in left, to push the lead back to 4-3. With the hit, Brooks became just the 11th player in program history with 30 or more career home runs.
South Carolina blitzed the Irish with four runs on five hits in the top of the seventh inning to take its only lead of the game at 7-4. A three-up, three-down inning for Notre Dame in the bottom half sealed the result.
Notre Dame wraps up play at the Puerto Vallarta Collegiate Challenge on Saturday with a game against No. 3/2 Washington (7 p.m. ET).