Panthers Strike Early, Take Down Irish

Sixth-seeded Pitt earns spot in ACC Softball Championship quarterfinals

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BLACKSBURG, Va. ( – Sixth-seeded Pitt jumped on third-seeded Notre Dame at the outset of Thursday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship quarterfinal and didn’t let up in securing an 8-1 win and spot in Friday’s semifinal round.

Winning pitcher Savannah King (19-7) limited the Fighting Irish – who entered the game leading the ACC in batting by a wide margin with a .351 team average – to six hits. The Panthers backed her with 12 hits and several defensive gems.

Maggie Sevilla finished 3-for-4 at the plate, and four other Pitt batters had multiple hits. Carly Thea and Jordan Fannin each drove in three runs and made run-saving catches in the outfield.

The Panthers (34-19) will face second-seeded North Carolina (36-13) in Friday’s 3:30 p.m. semifinal round. It will be the first meeting of the year between the teams, which did not meet during the regular season.

Despite their early exit from the ACC Championship, the nationally 21st-ranked Fighting Irish (40-13) remain in line for a solid seeding in the NCAA Tournament when teams and pairings are announced Sunday evening.

The Panthers got the swift attention of the Irish – and all in attendance at Tech Softball Park – by parlaying four hits, a Notre Dame error and a walk into a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. Thea had a two-run single, and McKayla Taylor and Fannin each drove in a run.

Pitt pushed its lead to 6-0 in the third inning when Fannin followed base hits by Thea and Manuel with a booming triple to the wall in right-center.

Notre Dame threatened in the bottom of the third when Karley Wester and Emilee Koerner drew one-out walks, but Fannin made a brilliant running catch on Katey Haus’ drive to right field to rob the Notre Dame senior of at least a double and the Irish of a probable two runs.

Notre Dame finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Cassidy Whidden led off with a double and scored on Sara White’s base hit to right. But the Panthers tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the sixth on Taylor’s RBI double and a sacrifice fly by Thea.

Further evidence that Thursday was destined to be the Panthers’ night came in the bottom of the sixth, when Thea made a sprawling catch in center to rob Megan Sorlie of an RBI base hit.

Allie Rhodes (19-5) started and worked the rocky first inning in taking the loss for the Fighting Irish. Rachel Nasland pitched the final six innings in relief and yielded the Panthers’ final four runs. White finished 2-for-2 in addition to driving in Notre Dame’s lone run.