Softball beats Owls, steals game from Irish

Junior catcher Emma Kauf pops up to throw. Kauf’s bat helped Tech win a pair of games this past week and keep the offense explosive in their two extra-innings losses. // Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

Softball hosted Kennesaw State in a victorious weekday tilt before heading to South Bend, Ind. for a series against No. 25 Notre Dame. Tech won game one against the Irish on the road, eventually losing games two and three in extra innings and moving the team’s record to 25–11 after the weekend of play.

Tech beat KSU on the back of a two-run, four-hit day from junior pitcher Chandler Dennis coupled with a scoreless two innings of relief work by junior pitcher Blake Neleman, earning her the save. Junior utility player Emma Kauf and freshman outfielder Auburn Dupree each recorded two hits and a run. Dupree drove in two runs as the Institute held off one-run innings by the Owls in the third and fifth by matching them in the bottom of those frames and adding a three-run fourth inning. Tech secured the 5–2 win to improve to 19–2 in non-conference games.

Following the home win, the Jackets extended their win streak to nine games in the opening game of the Notre Dame series. Neleman allowed six earned runs through the first three frames as Tech fell into a 7–4 hole. Dennis and senior pitcher Lexi Ray would combine for four innings of one-run work the rest of the game, and the Jackets overcame the deficit with a four-run seventh inning. A clean bottom of the frame preserved a 9–8 lead and a win for Tech.

Sophomore infielder Jin Sileo had a remarkable day at the plate, drawing two walks and recording a hit on each of her other at-bats. She scored twice, including the eventual game-winning run. Sophomore infielder Mallorie Black had Tech’s other multi-hit day, driving in a pair of runs on her two hits. The Jackets drew nine walks in the game, including three in the final frame, getting baserunners on a day where they had more runs than hits.

Game two saw Tech fall in an extra-innings shootout after allowing a six-run lead to slip away in late innings. A seven-run fourth inning helped Tech to an 11–5 lead after five frames, but a pair of three run Irish innings in the sixth and seventh sent the game to extras. Tech scored to take the lead in the top of the ninth, but Notre Dame walked it off in the bottom of the inning to take the 13–12 win in game two.

The Jackets used five pitchers, going deep into the bullpen to try and outlast the Irish. Four Tech errors coupled with eight walks allowed Notre Dame baserunners even when their bats were cold and eventually proved to be the difference in the game. Black, Kauf and Dupree each had multi-hit games to lead Tech offensively.

The final game of the series was another high-scoring, extra-innings tilt. Notre Dame once again came back in late innings to tie the game, scoring one run each in the fourth through seventh innings after falling behind 11–8 through the first two frames. Tech would not score again until the top of the seventh, and after the Jackets scored one run in the top of the eighth, the Irish walked it off 15–13 with a three-run bomb.

Tech again cycled through several pitchers in the loss, sending four different players to the circle in game three. Ray received the loss, but all four pitchers gave up at least one run as Notre Dame totaled 15 on the game. Kauf, senior outfielder Kennedy Cowden and sophomore designated player Sarah Beth Allen led Tech in hits with two each, and Kauf and Cowden were joined by Sileo and Dupree who drove in two runs each as the team scored a dozen or more runs again. 

The Jackets’ conference record moved to 6–9, placing them squarely in the middle of the pack. Tech faces Boston College, who sports the second-worst record in the conference, on the road for their next ACC series, giving the Institute a chance to get to .500 in conference play. The series will be in Chestnut Hill, Mass. from April 8–10.