Top Story, Spring, Softball

For Second-Straight Season, Notre Dame Knocks BC Out of ACC Tournament

Coming off its third-straight 30-win regular season, Boston College softball entered the ACC Tournament having only allowed 14 home runs during the three and a half month campaign. Arguably more impressive, Thursday afternoon’s starter, Jessica Dreswick—who logged 208.2 innings over the course of her 43 appearances—conceded just five long balls all year. To put that in perspective, the senior gave up 22 in her first 229.2 innings as a collegiate pitcher.

But in the tournament quarterfinals, Notre Dame cracked the code. Led by Cait Brooks, the Irish hit three home runs in the opening 40 minutes of play, chasing Dreswick in the top of the third frame. Back-to-back bombs in the first and a two-run jack in the third—Brooks’ second of the day—did the job.

Alexis Holloway ran away with the five-run lead, scattering just two hits throughout her complete game performance. With the exception of a minor third-inning hiccup, the freshman mowed through the Eagles’ lineup, en route to a 6-1 victory—a decision that just so happens to mark head coach Deanna Gumpf’s 700th career win.

At first, it looked like Dreswick—BC’s all-time wins leader—was in for one of her better outings. The hard-throwing right-hander needed all of four pitches to sit down the first two batters she faced. Unfortunately for the Eagles (30-23, 13-10 Atlantic Coast), a one-two-three inning wasn’t in the works. Instead, Dreswick gave up back-to-back solo shots.

Morgan Reed took the first pitch she saw to left center. Brooks, the ensuing batter, pounced on a ball up in the zone for an opposite-field home run, her eighth of the season. Even though Dreswick looked a little rattled, it appeared as if she was going to be just fine. After issuing a walk and allowing a two-out single, the senior escaped the inning. Then, one frame later, she retired the side with just nine pitches.

Brooks wasn’t going to let her get off that easy, though. When the third inning came along, the 5-foot-6 designated player launched a three-run dinger over the center field fence, scoring both Abby Sweet and Reed, who had reached base on an error and a fielder’s choice, respectively. As soon as the junior hopped on home plate, BC head coach Ashley Obrest walked out to the circle and sent Dreswick back to the dugout, putting an end to what could be the senior’s final start in an Eagles uniform.

In relief, Allyson Frei worked out of the jam, despite giving up a single and nailing Holloway with a pitch. At the time, the Notre Dame (32-20, 13-10) ace jogged to first as if nothing happened. But perhaps it had some kind of effect. In the bottom half of the frame, Holloway immediately walked Olivia Markopoulos. Moments later, a rise ball got away from her, soaring past the mit of catcher Madison Heide. With a runner in scoring position, the freshman’s struggles continued.  

Attempting to chip away at the Irish lead, Lexi DiEmmanuele laid down a sacrifice bunt, effectively moving Markopoulos over to third. Capitalizing on the situation, Chloe Sharabba pulled an outside pitch past a diving Reed through the left side for an RBI single. Eventually, Holloway relocated her command, inducing a pair of groundouts to end the inning—from that point forward, everything was smooth sailing for the Crown Point, Ind. native.

In fact, Holloway only conceded one hit in the game’s final four innings. The Eagles’ offense, which has been largely inconsistent for much of the season, was practically helpless. If it was going to mount any sort of comeback, the fourth inning was the time. Carly Severini kicked off the frame with a single to left center. The next batter, Cami Sellers, drew a four-pitch walk. Following an Allyson Moore pop-up, Jordan Chimento took a pitch to the hands, loading the bases.

Sensing danger, Heide visited the mound to talk with her pitcher. Whatever she said must have worked. Holloway made quick work of Markopoulos and DiEmmanuele, recording the final two outs of the inning, stranding three Eagles on base. Quite simply, the freshman’s changeup kept BC guessing, from start to finish, leaving Frei no choice but to wheel and deal in the circle.

The redshirt junior did everything she could to keep her team in the game, fanning four batters in her five innings of work. She wasn’t perfect, though. In the top of the sixth, Ali Wester laid down a bunt single toward third base to get things going. Soon after that, Reed grounded out to second, advancing Wester to second. Frei wisely walked Brooks, only to watch Rochford golf an RBI single to center field. Wester easily scored on the play, tacking on the Irish’s last run of the game.

Toward the end of the game, Holloway didn’t waste any time fooling around. She pitched three-consecutive one-two-three innings to round out the postseason victory. It was only fitting that she made the final play of the afternoon: DiEmmanuele hit a grounder back to the circle. Instinctively, Holloway reached out, gloved the ball, and fired a throw to first for the final out of the day and maybe the season—that is for BC.

The past couple of months have been nothing short of a roller coaster for the Eagles. After getting off to its worst start since 2013, BC strung together a program-record-breaking 13 wins in a row, catapulting itself into the thick of the Atlantic Division. With a healthy tandem of Dreswick and Frei, as well as a rejuvenated lineup, the Eagles looked unbeatable. When BC rattled off two-straight victories over Notre Dame last month—marking its first series win against the Irish in 20 years—all the signs were pointing to a changed Eagles team, a group that could make a run in the postseason.

Yet, for the second-straight season, and the third time in the past five years, Notre Dame has spoiled BC’s ACC Tournament, knocking out the Eagles in the quarterfinal round. While the odds certainly aren’t in their favor, all Obrest and Co. can do is wait and see if their RPI—53rd in the country—somehow buys them their first at-large NCAA Tournament bid since 2003.

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Editor

May 10, 2018