March 17, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A seven-run first inning provided the perfect opening act, and solid starting pitching in the circle completed the day for the University of Notre Dame softball team in the first game at Melissa Cook Stadium in 2016. The Irish added three additional runs to defeat Bowling Green 10-0 in five innings on Thursday in nonconference action.
No. 19 Notre Dame (22-3) extended its current winning streak to 18 games with the victory, outhitting Bowling Green (11-11) by a final 9-4 count in the contest. The Irish also chipped in three stolen bases.
“It feels really nice to be home,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “There’s nothing like playing at Melissa Cook Stadium. There are so many advantages to being here, we get to sleep in our own beds and we know this field so well. We are comfortable here, and I think it’s tough for teams to come here because it’s such a tough place to play.”
The Notre Dame offense exploded for seven runs on six hits in the bottom of the first inning against Bowling Green starter Briana Combs (2-4). Karley Wester, Melissa Rochford, Ali Wester, Caitlyn Brooks, Micaela Arizmendi, Morgan Reed and Megan Sorlie all crossed the plate for the Irish to open up a 7-0 lead. Rochford, Arizmendi (two), Sorlie (three) and Bailey Bigler all contributed RBI to the Notre Dame offensive cause.
“One of the things we’ve done really well this season has been getting off to a strong start,” Gumpf said. “I actually like being the visitor because we have done a great job as visitor this year scoring first, and it was nice to hold them in the top of the first when they got on Rachel (Nasland) a bit. She shut the door on them, and for us to come back and score all those runs changed the dynamic of the game.”
Rachel Nasland (7-0) worked on a spotless top of the second inning to turn Bowling Green away in its second ups. Morgan Evangelista fouled out to Rochford at third base, Marina Cobbs grounded out to first base and Braiden Dillow struck out swinging.
Nasland maintained her form in the top of the third against the Falcon attack. Molly Holliday lined out to Ali Wester at second base, Aspen Searle flew out to left field and Katee Hinkle was retired on a ground out to Reed at shortstop.
Katie Beriont picked up right where Nasland left off with a solid top of the fourth inning out of the Notre Dame bullpen. Beriont worked around a leadoff single from Chelsea Raker and a walk from Marisa Shook to hold the Falcons at bay. Haley Schrock struck out swinging and Trista Mokienko grounded into a beautiful double play turned by Rochford across the diamond to Arizmendi to end the frame.
“I loved Rachel today,” Gumpf said. “She got them to do what she wanted them to do, and Rachel had a great presence on the mound. I love the way KB came in and got us some ground balls. She wasn’t as sharp in her first inning but she worked around it (and finished), and in her second inning she did a great job.”
Notre Dame put the game out of reach on the offensive end in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Bowling Green reliever Dillow. Karley Wester led off the Irish stanza with a bunt single and moved into scoring position with her second stolen base of the game. After Ali Wester sacrificed the lead runner to third and Rochford reached by way of a walk, Brooks reached on a fielding error to left field one batter later, allowing Karley Wester to come across for an 8-0 Notre Dame lead. Reed brought both Brooks and Rochford in with a stinging double to the gap in right center, extending the Irish cushion to 10-0.
“(As an offense) we’re not trying to do too much,” Gumpf said. “We are the most successful offensively when we know what works for us and stay in our ballgame. Our team has done a great job of figuring out what really works great for us.”
Beriont blanked the Bowling Green order in the top of the fifth to clinch the run-rule win. Cobbs grounded out to second base, Holliday struck out swinging and Kayla Gregory lined out to shortstop for the final out.
Notre Dame continues its three-game homestand by welcoming Eastern Michigan to Melissa Cook Stadium on March 22 at 5 p.m. (ET). The game will stream live on WatchND.
“I think it’s really important from us to continue learning from games,” Gumpf said. “We never want to take a win for granted and we never want to take our learning opportunities for granted. The wins are great and build confidence, and as long as we learn that is what is most important for us. Regardless of the final score.”
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 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.