May 1, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After the rains washed out the first day of play during the sixth annual Strikeout Cancer weekend, the University of Notre Dame softball team and Louisville took to the diamond on Sunday for an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish emerged victorious in game one with a thrilling 8-7 win before Louisville took the nightcap thanks to an 8-3 final score to split the conference series.
No. 19/18 Notre Dame (37-9, 11-6 ACC) capped off an eventual Strikeout Cancer weekend that has already seen more than $38,000 raised for pediatric cancer patients, pushing the total funds raised past $185,000 in the six-year history of the event. The Irish also remained unbeaten in their last 17 conference series at Melissa Cook Stadium, which have spanned both the BIG EAST Conference and the ACC.
Notre Dame has now won 12 league matchups and split five other two-game series at home in conference play dating back to the 2012 season after Sunday’s halve with No. RV Louisville (33-12, 14-6 ACC).
Morgan Reed led all Notre Dame hitters with a 4-for-6 offensive effort during the doubleheader, which included a 3-for-3 outing with two RBI and three runs scored in the game one Irish win. Micaela Arizmendi added a home run and four RBI on the day, finishing the four-game Notre Dame week with two home runs and eight RBI. Megan Sorlie chipped in three RBI, while Ali Wester and Bailey Bigler each scored two runs.
Notre Dame closes the 2016 regular season with a three-game ACC series against North Carolina State on May 7-8 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish will recognize their five-player senior class of Arizmendi, Sorlie, Casey Africano, Allie Rhodes and co-captain Carly Piccinich during the weekend set, with the first two games on May 7 airing on ESPN3.
For the latest news and updates on all things Notre Dame softball, visit www.und.com/softball, follow the Irish @NDsoftball and @NDcoachGumpf on Twitter and at Instagram.com/notredamesoftball, and Like the team at Facebook.com/NDSoftball.
After a strikeout of Jordan McNary to lead off the top of the first inning, Allie Rhodes issued a walk to counterpart Maryssa Becker. Rhodes struck out Megan Hensley swinging, but consecutive singles by Lillie Goetz and Nicole Pufahl loaded the bases with two outs. Rhodes forced Brittany Sims to line out to center field to end the Louisville inning.
Ali Wester earned the first Notre Dame hit of the afternoon, slapping a high single to shortstop off Becker (19-8) in the bottom of the first. Caitlyn Brooks brought Wester home from second base two batters later, clocking an RBI single down the right field line to vault the Irish ahead 1-0.
Louisville answered with a run of its own in the top of the second inning after a Becker RBI groundout to shortstop scored Hailey Smith, tying the game at 1-1. Rhodes worked out of further trouble by flying Hensley out to right field to leave a pair of Cardinals on the pond.
Morgan Reed blasted a 1-2 Becker offering over the center field wall to open the bottom of the second inning, putting Notre Dame back ahead 2-1. Becker worked around a Megan Sorlie single later in the frame to keep the Irish offense at bay.
Louisville forged ahead with two runs in the top of the third, which came by way of a Jenna Jordan single to center field that scored Pufahl and Sims to shoot the Cardinals ahead 3-2. Katie Beriont (6-2) entered in relief and promptly struck out Smith and forced Morgan Meyer to ground out back to the circle to escape the jam.
Notre Dame battled back into the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Reed made her presence felt once more with one out, clubbing her second home run of the day over the left center field fence. Reed’s fourth long ball of the season tied the game at 3-3.
Beriont worked around a one-out single in the top of the fifth inning to keep Louisville off the scoreboard. Jordan flew out to right field and Smith popped out to Ali Wester at second base to end the Cardinal ups.
The Irish pushed ahead against Becker with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Bailey Bigler started things off with a bunt single before moving to second base on a ground ball out. An Ali Wester drop single into left field allowed Bigler to score and brought Wester sailing into third for a 4-3 Notre Dame lead. Micaela Arizmendi collected an RBI with a groundout to the right side to make it 5-3 Irish.
Beriont kept her stellar outing going in the top of the sixth inning. Meyer grounded out to the pitcher, Becker grounded out to third base and Hensley flew out to right field to strand a one-out Louisville single.
Kimmy Sullivan kicked the Notre Dame offense into gear in the bottom of the sixth inning, crushing a 1-2 pitch from Becker out of the park down the left field line. Sullivan’s second home run of the season upped the Irish lead to 6-3. Reed singled through the right side and stole second before Maddie McCracken laid down a bunt single and took second base with some crafty base running to put two in scoring position later in the inning. Sorlie cleared the bases with a two-run double to left center one batter later, extending the Notre Dame advantage to 8-3.
Louisville rallied with four runs in the top of the seventh inning, which included a two-run Smith home run that cut the Notre Dame lead to 8-6. McNary added an RBI double down the left field line that scored Meyer and brought the Cardinals within one at 8-7. Rachel Nasland entered for Beriont and secured her second save of the season by grounding Becker out to shortstop for the game’s final out.
Louisville quickly struck with two runs in the top of the first inning, with both coming by way of a Nicole Pufahl single to left field that plated Lillie Goetz and Megan Hensley for the 2-0 Cardinals lead. Rachel Nasland (13-2) popped up Brittany Sims to second base and struck out Jenna Jordan swinging to get out of the inning.
The Cardinals tacked on an insurance run in the top of the second inning after Jordan McNary pulled a slap sacrifice fly into right field to bring Hailey Smith across (3-0). Nasland would sandwich a pop out and lineout to third base around a walk to limit the Louisville offense from there.
After Louisville brought one run around in the top of the third inning to extend its lead to 4-0, Notre Dame began chipping away at the deficit. Bailey Bigler was hit by a pitch and co-captain Karley Wester laid down a successful bunt single to get the rally in motion. An Ali Wester sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring positon, where Micaela Arizmendi delivered a base hit into center field that scored both runners to cut the Louisville lead to 4-2. Caitlyn Brooks narrowly missed a game-tying home run with a deep foul ball down the left field line as the next batter, and Hensley (14-4) ultimately grounded Brooks into a fielder’s choice that retired Arizmendi at second. A Kimmy Sullivan single through the left side that moved Brooks to second left both runners stranded after an infield pop out to end the frame.
Notre Dame ultimately closed the gap to one run after Arizmendi blasted off with a solo home run to right field with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, closing the Louisville lead to one at 4-3. Hensley and Maryssa Becker would shut the door from there, allowing one combined hit to the Irish lineup over the final 2.1 innings while Louisville scored four runs in the top of the sixth for the final 8-3 winning margin.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.