May 16, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — A slow offensive start to the NCAA South Bend Regional for the University of Notre Dame softball team in its first game on Friday was an offensive anomaly from what has become normal, even expected, during the 2015 season. The Irish corrected and connected in a huge way facing elimination on Saturday, combining for 29 runs on 27 hits in only 10 innings to defeat Northwestern 14-5 and Ball State 15-4 at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The day two sweep for No. 21/22 Notre Dame (42-14) eliminated both Northwestern (28-23) and Ball State (34-25) from the 2015 NCAA Championship, and advanced the Irish into the regional final round against Kentucky Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) at Melissa Cook Stadium. An “if necessary” game would follow a Notre Dame win at approximately 4 p.m.
Playing as the visiting team on the scoreboard in both games due to tournament rotation, Notre Dame scored runs in nine of the 10 innings it played, totaling eight runs in both the second and fifth innings. The Irish never trailed in either contest against Northwestern and Ball State, and officially smashed the previous program record for runs scored in a single season (369, 2010) by finishing Saturday at 392 runs scored in 56 games this season.
As a team, Notre Dame batted a combined .482 in elimination play with five doubles, two triples and three home runs, logging 26 RBI on its 29 runs scored and adding a team .804 slugging percentage. Irish hitters reached base at a .551 clip on the day, and were a perfect 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts.
Senior Katey Haus was masterful throughout the day on both offense and defense, batting .833 with one double, six RBI and five runs scored. The Irish third baseman added a team-high six assists at the hot corner. Senior co-captain, two-time All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Emilee Koerner clubbed three doubles, drove in five runs and scored six times, while sophomore All-American Karley Wester also scored six runs. Senior Cassidy Whidden drilled two home runs, including a grand slam in the second inning against Northwestern, to account for her team-high seven RBI.
Koerner tied a pair of Notre Dame single-game program records against Ball State with three doubles and four runs scored. Her third double of the game moved the Irish standout into a tie for third place on the NCAA all-time doubles list with 79 (Mandy Pfeiffer, Princeton, 1994-97) in her legendary Notre Dame career.
Sophomore Rachel Nasland (17-8) threw a strong four innings for Notre Dame in the circle on Saturday, going three shutout innings to earn the victory against Northwestern before adding a scoreless bottom of the fifth inning with two strikeouts in the nightcap versus Ball State. Junior Allie Rhodes (20-5) allowed four earned runs in her six total innings of work, taking the win against Ball State to secure her first career 20-win season.
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#21/22 Notre Dame 14, Northwestern 5 (5 innings)
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester led off the top of the first inning with a four-pitch walk against Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau (11-10). A stolen base and a groundout moved Wester to third base, where senior Katey Haus laced an RBI single up the middle to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Freshman Morgan Reed followed with an RBI groundout with the bases loaded later in the inning that gave the Irish a 2-0 lead.
Sophomore Rachel Nasland shut the Northwestern offense down in the bottom of the first, with Reed and Haus making a pair of great plays on the left side of the infield to retire the Wildcat side 1-2-3.
Notre Dame broke the game open against Northwestern reliever Olivia Duehr in the top of the second. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Haus worked a 3-1 walk to score Wester and put the Irish on top 3-0. After a hard line out to short by junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi was a loud first out, senior Cassidy Whidden clubbed a first-pitch grand slam over wall in right center to vault Notre Dame in front 7-0.
Doubles from Sammy Nettling and Letourneau pushed across the first Northwestern run of the game, trimming the Wildcat deficit to 7-1. Anna Edwards hit a sharp fly ball to Wester in left with two on and one out later in the bottom of the second, and the Irish left fielder doubled Letourneau off at second base to end the inning.
Notre Dame kept pouring on the offense as the game shifted to the top of the third inning. Senior co-captain Jenna Simon legged out a bunt single before taking two bases on a Wester infield knock to put runners on the corners with one out. A sacrifice fly to center by senior co-captain, two-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year Emilee Koerner made it 8-1 in favor of Notre Dame. An RBI double by Haus and an RBI single for Arizmendi upped the Irish cushion to 10-1.
The Irish added three more runs to the total in the top half of the fourth inning. A two-run single for Koerner and a base knock for Haus against Kristen Wood extended the Notre Dame lead to 13-1.
Northwestern’s Duehr legged out an infield single against junior Allie Rhodes with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, but Rhodes induced Edwards into a fly out to right field to strand the Wildcat runner at first.
Reed added an insurance run in the top of the fifth inning for the Irish, drilling a solo home run over the fence in left field for her second career long ball, pulling Notre Dame in front 14-1.
#21/22 Notre Dame 15, Ball State 4 (5 innings)
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester ripped a leadoff triple down the right field line against Nicole Steinbach (19-14) in the top of the first inning to kick start the Notre Dame offense. Senior co-captain, two-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year Emilee Koerner followed with an RBI double to left center field, scoring Wester to make it quickly 1-0 Irish. A senior Katey Haus walk set the stage for classmate Cassidy Whidden, who clubbed a three-run home run over the right field fence for a 4-0 Notre Dame advantage that chased Steinbach from the contest.
Ball State managed a hit from Loren Chihlar and had a batter hit by a pitch, but junior Allie Rhodes forced Jessica Craft to ground out to freshman Morgan Reed for an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the bottom of the first.
Notre Dame added to its lead with three more runs in the top of the second inning. An RBI double by Koerner, an RBI single by Haus and a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi against Ball State reliever Kelsey Schifferdecker upped the Irish cushion to 7-0.
The Cardinals looked to get a rally going with two outs in the bottom of the second, with an Amanda Arnett single up the middle and a walk to Taylor Cooley keeping the frame rolling. Rhodes jammed Selena Reyna into lining out to Reed at shortstop to leave two more Ball State runners on the base paths.
Rhodes worked around a two-out walk against the Ball State offense in the bottom of the third inning, striking out Craft looking on a 1-2 offering to keep the Cardinal lineup at bay.
Koerner drove her third double of the game off the wall in left center with one out in the top of the fourth frame. Arizmendi made it count two batters later, carving an RBI double of her own down the left field line to plate Koerner and make it 8-0 Notre Dame.
Ball State scored four runs with two outs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth to trim the Notre Dame lead to 8-4. Senior co-captain Jenna Simon made a nice line drive snag out at second with a runner at third base to halt the Cardinals rally.
Notre Dame put the game away in the top of the fifth inning. Reed began the frame with a single to left field, and after a fielder’s choice junior Megan Sorlie moved sophomore Kimmy Sullivan to second base on a single of her own. A bunt single for Simon loaded the bases, where Wester worked a walk with the bags full to make it 9-4 Irish. After Ball State starter Steinbach re-entered the game Koerner slapped a chopper to shortstop as the next batter, but the throw from Reyna found the backstop and allowed all three Notre Dame runners to come around and score (12-4).
Later in the fifth, a Haus RBI single through the right side and an Arizmendi RBI triple to right center brought two more Notre Dame runs across to make it 14-4 Irish and chase Steinbach for the final time. An RBI fielder’s choice by Reed to shortstop capped the seven-run Notre Dame top of the fourth (15-4).
Sophomore Rachel Nasland took over quickly in relief in the bottom of the fifth inning, striking out Craft looking on a full-count pitch, flying Shelbie Scamihorn out to center field and freezing pinch hitter Rachel Houck looking on a 3-2 pitch for the game’s final out.