Notre Dame senior center fielder Lorin Hom catches a line drive during the Tigers' 5-2 win over St. Ignatius. Hom later made a diving catch to preserve a one-run lead.
Last season, the Notre Dame-Belmont softball team didn’t pick up its fourth West Catholic Athletic League until game 11 of the 12-game league schedule.
The Tigers are ahead of the game this season. Behind a three-hit effort from junior pitcher Lindsey Mifsud, the Tigers earned their fourth WCAL win in five games, downing visiting St. Ignatius 5-2 Tuesday.
“I’m proud of my girls being 4-1 in the WCAL,” said Notre Dame coach Tara Van Meter. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had that.”
With the win, the Tigers have now won seven of their last eight games.
With Mifsud doing the job in the pitchers’ circle, the Notre Dame offense took care of the rest. The Tigers scored five runs while pounding out 10 hits.
“We played well,” Van Meter said. “We’ve been playing a lot — five games in the last six days.”
All that playing time has the Tigers playing at a high level right now. Notre Dame (4-1 WCAL, 8-4 overall) put the pressure on St. Ignatius (0-2, 4-6) from the outset, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman Marina Sylvestri led off the game with an infield hit and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Danica Kazakoff, a sophomore. Julia Villanueva, one of only three seniors on the team, was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Sofia Reyes, another sophomore, drove in Sylvestri with a single to left, with Villanueva thrown out at the plate trying to score from first. Mifsud followed with a RBI single to left to drive in Reyes to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats cut the lead in half in the top of the second inning. Mia Vierra led off the inning with a triple to the gap in right-center field and scored on a Jacqueline Boland groundout.
The score remained 2-1 until the Tigers tacked on a run in the bottom of the fourth. Sofia Magnani, yet another sophomore, led off the inning with a single to left, moved to second on senior Lorin Hom’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Jenny Joyner’s double to the fence in left field to put the Tigers up 3-1.
St. Ignatius, once again, closed the gap to one with a run in the top of the fifth. Maddy Rinn lifted a fly ball to right field that was dropped, enabling her to reach second. Claire Gunther followed with an RBI single, driving in Rinn and taking second on the throw home. Gunther moved up to third on a wild pitch before the Tigers’ defense saved the day.
Maddie Kim hit a fly ball to shallow center field that appeared destined to drop in for a hit and tie the game, but Hom came streaking in and, with a headlong dive, made the catch to end the inning.
“Lorin Hom made a great catch to stop their momentum,” Van Meter said.
The Tigers used that shot of adrenaline to increase their lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Reyes singled and scored when Mifsud drove a 3-2 pitch to the fence in left-center field. The Tigers then added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, with Sylvestri driving home Joyner, who had walked to start the inning.
Sylvestri, Reyes and Mifsud each had a pair of hits to pace the Tigers’ attack.
Van Meter attributes the success of her team this season to a young squad that already has a year of varsity experience under their belts. Three of the four sophomores who started Tuesday played varsity as freshmen last season. Add three juniors with at least two years of varsity experience, a pair of seniors and another stellar freshman, the Tigers have one of the youngest, most experienced teams in the WCAL.
“A lot of the girls were freshmen (last season) and having a year under their belts helps a lot (this season),” Van Meter said. “Now, it’s about convincing the girls they can compete in this league and this year they believe it now.”