May 8, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The only response to an explosive offensive opening to the series between the University of Notre Dame softball team and NC State was an effective pitching performance. Senior Allie Rhodes delivered for the Irish, spinning a six-hit shutout on Senior Day to lift Notre Dame over NC State 4-0 on Sunday at Melissa Cook Stadium in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.
No. 19/21 Notre Dame (39-10, 13-7 ACC) earned the series victory against NC State (23-33, 6-18 ACC), taking two out of three games from the Wolfpack on the weekend. The Irish closed the series with a .391 team batting average, 34 hits that included 12 for extra bases, 23 RBI and five stolen bases.
Rhodes (18-5) motored through the NC State order in the top of the first inning. Tyler Ross popped out to third base, Molly Hutchison struck out swinging and Meredith Burroughs grounded out to Micaela Arizmendi unassisted at first base.
Notre Dame struck quickly against NC State starter Courtney Mirabella (13-17) in the bottom of the first frame. Co-captain Karley Wester began the Irish ups with a leadoff single to center field, taking second safely with a stolen base. An Ali Wester sacrifice bunt moved the Karley Wester to third base, where the lead run remained following a full-count walk issued to Caitlyn Brooks later in the inning. Kimmy Sullivan located an RBI single into center with two outs, allowing Karley Wester to score for the 1-0 Notre Dame lead. An NC State fielding error kept the inning going with Morgan Reed at the plate, and Brooks was the beneficiary by scoring an unearned run to extend the Irish edge to 2-0.
It was another three-up, three-down inning for Rhodes in the top of the second inning. Maggie Hawkins fouled out to right field, Hanna Sommer struck out swinging and Alyssa Compton grounded out to Reed at shortstop.
The Irish added an insurance run to pad their lead in the home half of the second. A Megan Sorlie walk and sacrifice bunt by co-captain Carly Piccinich placed a runner in scoring position. Karley Wester followed with a sac bunt of her own to push Sorlie to third base. Ali Wester made the two-out RBI chance count with a seeing-eye single through the left side that plated Sorlie and upped the Notre Dame lead to 3-0.
Following a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third stanza, Reed blasted a 1-1 pitch from Mirabella deep and gone over the center field fence for a two-out solo home run. Reed’s fifth home run of 2016 made it 4-0 Notre Dame.
Rhodes kept her momentum rolling with her fourth straight three-up, three-down effort in the top of the fourth. Ross struck out swinging, Hutchison fouled out to first base and Burroughs struck out swinging for the inning’s final out.
Sommer snapped the hitless drought for NC State in the Wolfpack fifth inning, grooving a one-out single into left center field. Compton followed with a single of her own to center field that put two aboard with one out, but Rhodes struck out Cheyenne Balzer and Brittany Nimmo swinging to leave two runners on the pond.
Macauley Prickett looked to get NC State in motion with an artful bunt single in the top of the sixth inning and took second base safely with a steal. That was the extent of the damage for Rhodes, as Ross popped out to second and Hutchison and Burroughs both struck out swinging to end the inning.
NC State made its best run at the Notre Dame defense in the top of the seventh inning. Hawkins led off with a single, and Compton added her second single of the day following a Sommer strikeout. Balzer loaded the bases with a one-out single to right center field. Molly Martin and Prickett both went down on swinging strikes to close the game.
Rhodes equaled a career-high with 12 strikeouts during her six-hit shutout, yielding no walks to the NC State lineup. Rhodes tossed 74 strikes in her 111 pitches. Seven different Notre Dame players finished the day with one base hit each, with Ali Wester, Sullivan and Reed all contributing stolen bases.
Notre Dame opens play at the 2016 ACC Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina on May 12. The Irish are expected to be the third overall seed in next weekend’s ACC tournament.
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.
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.