May 16, 2014
LOS ANGELES – The University of Notre Dame softball team threw a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning on Friday against Long Beach State, the 27th time this season the Irish have scored in the first ups of a game. That offensive momentum carried on throughout the contest, powering No. 2 seed Notre Dame to an 8-0 win in six innings in the first game of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Easton Stadium.
The No. 19/20 Irish (40-11) advanced into the Winners Bracket of the Los Angeles Regional, and will face No. 1 seed UCLA on Saturday at noon (PT) at Easton Stadium. Notre Dame also secured the 16th 40-win campaign in program history, and have now won 40 or more games in six straight seasons.
“I like the way the team showed up today,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We had a plan ready to go, and I thought the girls did a great job of sticking with it, really focusing on the things we needed to focus on to make us successful.”
Senior Lauren Stuhr powered the Notre Dame offense with a 2-for-3 day at the plate, smashing an RBI double and a solo home run, finishing the game with two runs batted in. Junior Katey Haus added two hits and a team-high three RBI, while NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Top 10 finalist Karley Wester and junior Jenna Simon added two hits, a stolen base and two runs scored each. Sophomore Micaela Arizmendi chipped in a pair of base knocks, including the game-winning walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It’s the best thing and the worst thing about today’s game, (Long Beach State) saw probably about 10 games on us and we saw about six on them while scouting,” Gumpf said. “It’s just the reality of our game. They had a plan, we had a plan, and I just thought we did a great job of executing.”
Senior Laura Winter (28-5) was nearly lights out in the circle, surrendering just three hits to Long Beach State (38-18) batters in six full innings of work. Winter allowed just one walk and struck out five 49er hitters in 71 pitches.
Winter got off to a fast start in the circle in the top of the first inning, retiring the Long Beach State lineup in order. Shayna Kimbrough flew out to left field, Cya Neal popped up to shortstop and Winter got Darian Tautalafua swinging for strike three to end the 49er half.
Wester opened the Notre Dame ups in the bottom of the first by drawing a five-pitch walk, and moved over to second base after a Simon infield single. A perfect sacrifice bunt from junior All-American Emilee Koerner advanced both runners into scoring position. Haus followed with a hard single up the middle, clearing the bases to give the Irish a 2-0 lead.
“The way we came out and attacked, with our table setters getting the job done, those two big runs early just really lets the girls take a deep breath and play,” Gumpf said of the first inning.
Karli Sandoval led off the Long Beach State top of the second inning with a double to the gap in left center field, but a nice backhanded play in the hole one batter later by senior captain Chloe Saganowich at shortstop caught Sandoval in a rundown for the inning’s first out. A two-out walk put a pair of 49ers on the base paths, but Winter froze Hannah De Gaetano looking on a called strike three to halt the Long Beach State surge.
Sophomore Megan Sorlie drew a four-pitch walk against starter Erin Jones-Wesley (19-10) in the bottom of the second, and a sacrifice bunt from Saganowich moved the Sorlie to second. Sorlie’s first stolen base of the year into third set the stage for a Stuhr double to right, putting Notre Dame in front 3-0.
A leadoff single for Koerner and a fielding error on a deep fly ball to right field off the bat of Haus landed two Irish runners on base in the bottom of the third inning. Junior Cassidy Whidden then clubbed an RBI single off the wall in right field, scoring Koerner to chase Jones-Wesley at 4-0.
Long Beach State’s Sandoval picked up her second hit of the game to open the top of the fourth, but Winter settled in from there. A pair of strikeouts and a fly out to Wester in left field stranded pinch runner Alexie Johnson.
Stuhr wasted little time in the bottom of the fourth, crushing the second pitch of the frame deep and gone over the left field wall off Long Beach State reliever Amanda Hansen to make it 5-0 Notre Dame. Back-to-back infield singles from Wester and Simon, along with stolen bases from each player, set the stage for a Koerner sacrifice fly to right field that plated Wester to make it 6-0 Irish. An RBI ground out to short by Haus one batter later pushed Simon across (7-0).
“Our team does such a good job of staying loose and staying fun,” Stuhr said. “Like Coach said, when our table setters in the first inning do their job, it puts a lot of confidence in the rest of us in the lineup. I wouldn’t say that the win was surprising at all for us.”
Winter kept the pedal down against the Long Beach State bats in the top of the sixth inning. Wester made a great play in left field to take away what looked like a sure base hit for Neal, and Winter then grounded Tautalafua out to third base and struck Sandoval out swinging for the inning’s third out.
A pair of runners set the table for Arizmendi with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the all-ACC first team selection delivered, flaring an RBI single into left field that scored Koerner for the game-ending run and an 8-0 Notre Dame victory.
“We have put a lot of runs on the board this year, and I think it’s been pretty consistent,” Gumpf said. “It was a good showing, but honestly, this time of the year, being our first postseason game outside of the ACC, I’m really proud of them because they didn’t change anything. That was our goal.”
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant