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Notre Dame Softball: Fighting Irish Fall to Oklahoma Sooners in Florida

February has been discouraging, but has shown just how hard these Fighting Irish fight.

Twitter @NDsoftball

Many Midwesterners, myself included, have become increasingly frustrated with Mother Nature as she refuses to be reasonable with those of us living in the heartland.

The Notre Dame softball team has escaped to sunshine, starting its season with four games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, before a six-game series in Clearwater, Fla. that started Thursday.

The Irish left Mexico at 2-2, beating Washington 3-2 and Liberty 4-1, but losing to Duke 7-3 and to South Carolina 7-4.

At the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitation, the Irish were pitted against the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the first day of competition.

The Irish had beaten the reigning national champion two years ago, but the undefeated Sooners prevailed Thursday, 6-2.

Pitcher Giselle Juarez — and her infamous curveball — stymied Irish bats, while the Sooners held a 1-0 lead heading into the third inning.

The top of the frame reflected both the struggles and promise of the Irish’s young season.

Pitcher Alexis Holloway (1-2) induced ground outs from right fielder Jocelyn Alo — hitting .500 in the two spot — and third baseman Sydney Romero.

However, Holloway then walked cleanup hitter Falepolima Aviu and missed first baseman Grace Green’s dribbler past the mound. Katie Marino, Notre Dame’s second baseman, nabbed the ball too late, negating a potential third out.

Shay Knighten, batting .500 in the five hole, blooped a fly ball that left fielder Ali Wester mishandled, allowing Aviu to to score the Sooners’ second run of the game.

The Irish’s defensive struggles leading to unearned Sooners runs mirrored a similar fate Notre Dame suffered the prior week against Duke. The Irish also blew 3-0 and 4-3 leads against South Carolina, although those weren’t the result of fielding miscues.

Irish reliever Payton Tidd yielded a home run to Sooners shortstop Grace Lyons during the top of fourth, but the Notre Dame offense got two back in the bottom half.

Wester gave the Irish their first base hit of the night and Caitlyn Brooks followed this up with a two-run homer. The Sooners would respond with Knighten double in the fifth to score Green, and center fielder Raegan Rogers’ two run home run.

While the struggles have been discouraging, the successes — like Notre Dame’s first win over Washington since 2001 — seem more indicative of what is ahead.

The Irish resume play at 10 a.m. today against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

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