March 13, 2016
by Tony Jones
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Much like its first trip to The Park as an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member in 2014, the University of Notre Dame softball team played as if it were on its home field. A total of 13 Sunday hits, including 10 in the final two innings alone, provided the offensive firepower to lift the Irish to a 16-3 win over Virginia and notch a three-game conference sweep.
No. 20/23 Notre Dame (21-3, 3-0 ACC) kept its momentum rolling with its 17th straight victory dating back to Feb. 19, outscoring Virginia (8-18, 0-3 ACC) 32-8 during the weekend set at The Park. The Irish added a 29-11 edge in total hits, 25-7 lead in RBI and nine to two cushion for the weekend in stolen bases.
Co-captain Karley Wester was hit by a pitch on the helmet to lead off the top of the first inning against Virginia starter Erika Osherow (6-11), and quickly moved into scoring position with a stolen base. After Ali Wester executed an artful sacrifice bunt, a Cavalier throwing error brought Karley Wester in from second base to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Caitlyn Brooks followed with an RBI single to right field two batters later that scored Ali Wester for the 2-0 Irish advantage.
Following a three-up, three-down bottom of the first inning, Danni Ingraham picked up the first Virginia hit of the game with a single up the middle off Notre Dame starter Allie Rhodes (10-2). Madison Labshere tied the game two batters later with a two-run home run over the wall in right field, squaring the score at 2-2. Rhodes forced a McKall Miller pop out to second base and a swinging strikeout by Lauren Heintzelman to end the Virginia bottom of the second frame.
Virginia managed a one-out double off the bat of Allie Arneson in the bottom of the third inning, but Rhodes found her stride as a steady rain began to fall. Aimee Chapdelaine and Katie Park both grounded out to Melissa Rochford at third base to stall the Cavalier frame.
Micaela Arizmendi looked to start a two-out rally in the top of the fourth by lacing a single through the right side off Osherow. The Virginia starter was up to the task, forcing a groundout one batter later to strand Arizmendi at first.
Notre Dame broke through to retake the lead in the top of the fifth inning. After Bailey Bigler reached on an error and Karley Wester on a fielder’s choice, Ali Wester laced an RBI single into left field that brought Bigler home and put the Irish back in front at 3-2.
Virginia threatened in the bottom of the fifth frame after Arneson worked a full-count walk. A Chapdelaine fielder’s choice to second base put Arneson out at second base to get the Notre Dame defense out of a jam.
Rhodes tossed five innings of three-hit softball, adding a strikeout to earn a win in her ninth straight start. Rhodes has claimed 11 consecutive positive decisions after mixing in a pair of saves to her start totals.
The Irish offense erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth inning to pad the lead. A Brooks single and Arizmendi double put runners in scoring position, where Morgan Reed was intentionally walked to load the bases. A Maddie McCracken RBI single scored pinch runner Carly Piccinich to extend the Notre Dame lead to 4-2. A Megan Sorlie sacrifice fly added the fifth Notre Dame run of the ball game (5-2), and McCracken scored on an error to push the Irish lead to 6-2. Karley Wester capped the dynamic Notre Dame frame with a towering two-run home run over the center field wall. Wester’s first long ball of the season ended the inning at 8-2.
Virginia notched an unearned run with two outs in the bottom half of the sixth stanza to trim the deficit to 8-3. Notre Dame reliever Rachel Nasland forced Miller to fly out to center field for the inning’s final out.
Notre Dame pushed the contest out of reach with eight runs on six hits in the top of the seventh inning. RBI hits by Kimmy Sullivan, Casey Africano, Sorlie, Dana Bouquet and a pair of runs driven in by Arizmendi highlighted the Irish surge.
Nasland quickly spun a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning to notch the sweep for Notre Dame. A pop out to third base and back-to-back strikeouts against Virginia pinch hitters clinched the Irish win.
Notre Dame is slated to make its first appearance of 2016 at Melissa Cook Stadium on Thursday, hosting Bowling Green in nonconference action. The 5 p.m. (ET) game will be streamed live on WatchND.
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.