The University of Notre Dame softball team was unable to capitalize on a three-run fourth inning surge, ultimately succumbing to Virginia Tech 4-3 Friday night in the first game of the Lexington Regional of the NCAA Championship at John Cropp Stadium.
A pair of Virginia Tech hitters drew walks against Notre Dame starter Laura Winter (29-11) in the top of the first inning, but a nice double play started by third baseman Katey Haus and a Winter strikeout of Kylie McGoldrick got the Irish out of the jam.
Lauren Gaskill reached on a two-out bloop single to left field for the Hokies (36-19) in the top of the third, but Emilee Koerner made a tremendous diving catch in the right center gap to rob Dani Anderson of a base hit and keep Virginia Tech off the scoreboard.
Jenna Simon got the Irish (43-14) offense rolling with a two-out single in the bottom of the third inning, but a deep fly out by Koerner stranded the Notre Dame runner on base.
Virginia Tech broke through in the top of the fourth with two away, as Kat Banks ripped a 0-1 Winter offering off the foul pole in left field to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead.
A pair of singles by Kelsey Thornton and Amy Buntin gave Notre Dame momentum in the bottom of the fourth inning. After two quick outs, pinch hitter Jackie Bowe ripped an RBI single to right field off Virginia Tech starter Jasmine Harrell, scoring Buntin from second base to tie the contest at 1-all. Lauren Stuhr then sent a rocket single to right field on a 1-1 count and the ball skipped by the Hokie right fielder Banks, clearing the bases and allowing the Notre Dame left fielder to cruise into third base (3-1).
Virginia Tech threatened in the top of fifth, getting runners to first and second base with only one out. Shortstop Chloe Saganowich made a great play in the hole to snag a high hopping grounder off the bat of Courtney Liddle, putting Gaskill out at third base. McGoldrick was then hit by a pitch to load the bags for the Hokies with two outs. Banks answered again with a looping single that scored all three runs and gave Virginia Tech the lead back at 4-3.
The Hokies loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth inning, but a comebacker to Winter in the circle started a 1-2-3 double play to strand all three Virginia Tech runners on the base paths.
Koerner made her second sprawling grab in center field in the top half of the seventh to take what looked to be a sure hit away from McGoldrick. A Banks flyout to Stuhr retired the Virginia Tech side and gave the Irish life headed to the bottom of the frame.
Notre Dame will face either No. 12 seed Kentucky or Marshall Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the double-elimination round of the Lexington Regional.