March 6, 2016
by Tony Jones
FORT MYERS, Fla. – With its offense clicking on all cylinders, the University of Notre Dame softball team had the run producing mojo it needed for a successful Sunday. A four-hit pitching performance in the circle solidified a 7-0 shutout of Stony Brook and a 7-1 win over Ball State to sweep the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Spring Break Classic at the FGCU Softball Complex.
No. 21/25 Notre Dame (16-3) extended its current winning streak to 12 games with its third straight tournament sweep, outscoring its three weekend opponents by a combined 24-5 run count. The 16-3 start for Notre Dame matches the second-best start in the history of the program, equaling the first 19 results for the 2014 Irish squad.
The Notre Dame offense outhit the opposition 42-14 over the course of the tournament, and was successful in 13 of 14 stolen base attempts.
Freshman Melissa Rochford notched a 5-for-6 (.833) performance at the plate with an RBI and three runs scored against Stony Brook (5-10) and Ball State (10-9) on Sunday, while classmate Caitlyn Brooks added a team-high three RBI. Freshman Ali Wester contributed five hits, three stolen bases and a team-high four runs scored.
Junior co-captain Karley Wester became the 22nd player in Notre Dame history to reach the 200-hit plateau for a career with an RBI single in the fourth inning against Stony Brook. Wester needed only 129 games to achieve the milestone, a pace of more than 1.5 hits per game, to break the Irish record pace to 200 hits in 165 contests set by three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15).
Allie Rhodes (7-2) continued her solid senior campaign with six shutout innings in the circle against Stony Brook, scattering two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Dating back to a start against Cal Poly on Feb. 20, Rhodes is 6-0 with a 1.24 ERA and two saves, posting 45 strikeouts to only five walks in 39.2 innings pitched.
Junior Rachel Nasland (5-0) remained unbeaten in 2016 with six solid innings of her own in the nightcap against Ball State, yielding two hits and two walks while striking out six Cardinal hitters. Nasland retired 10 consecutive batters from the bottom of the third through the bottom of the sixth innings in the victory.
Notre Dame resumes its Spring Break tour with a non-conference doubleheader at FIU on Wednesday night in Miami. First pitch against the Panthers that night is set for 5 p.m. (ET) at Felsberg Field at FIU Stadium.
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.
#21 ND 7, Stony Brook 0
Allie Rhodes bounced back from an Alexandra Pisciotta single with one out in the top of the first inning to retire consecutive Stony Brook batters. Chelsea Evans popped out to co-captain Carly Piccinich at second base and Melissa Phelan struck out looking for the frame’s final out.
Rhodes kept the momentum rolling with a 1-2-3 top of the second inning against the Stony Brook order. Irene Rivera struck out swinging, Diane Caruso flew out to center field and Lexie Shue grounded out to second base.
Caitlyn Brooks notched the first Notre Dame hit of the day in the bottom of the second inning against Stony Brook starter Jane Sallen (4-5), and a Maddie McCracken two-out walk put a pair of runners on. Megan Sorlie connected on a high chop toward the 3-4 hole that was corralled on the run by Seawolves second baseman Danielle Kemp to save a Notre Dame run from crossing.
Notre Dame broke through on offense in the bottom of the third inning. Ali Wester started a two-out rally with a single through the box, and Melissa Rochford moved the runner to third base with a chopping single down the left field line. Brooks made the chance count with a stinging triple to right field that cleared the bases for the 2-0 Irish lead.
With two on and two out in the bottom of the fourth inning, Karley Wester became the fastest Notre Dame player to reach the 200-hit career milestone with an RBI single through the left side, plating McCracken to up the Irish advantage to 3-0.
After Rhodes posted a scoreless top of the fifth inning against the Stony Brook offense, Notre Dame added an insurance run in the bottom half. A sacrifice fly to right field by Morgan Reed allowed Rochford to tag up and extend the Irish cushion to 4-0.
Rhodes ended her solid start with a scoreless top of the sixth inning on the mound. The Irish southpaw forced three ground ball outs and added a strikeout to hold Stony Brook at bay.
Notre Dame pushed the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth. Singles from Karley Wester and Ali Wester kicked off the inning, and a throwing error as Ali Wester successfully stole second base allowed Karley Wester to score from third base (5-0). Following a Rochford single, Micaela Arizmendi clocked a bases-clearing double to the right center gap to extend the Irish lead to 7-0.
Brooks entered the circle to toss a shutout top of the seventh inning that locked down the victory. After an infield fly out and ground out to second base, Brooks got Caruso to chase a swinging strike three for the game’s final out.
#21 ND 7, Ball State 1
Ali Wester got the Notre Dame top of the first inning by reaching on a fielding error at first base. Melissa Rochford drove a rocket single off Ball State starter Nicole Steinbach (7-4) that caromed through the left side and advanced to second base on the throw. Caitlyn Brooks sent a sacrifice fly deep to center field to allow Wester to tag from third and give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
Rachel Nasland recorded a spotless bottom of the first inning in the circle, fouling out Amanda Arnett out to first base, grounding Madison Lee out to shortstop and getting Rachel Houck to chase a swinging strike three for the three-up, three-down frame.
Ball State tied the game in the bottom of the second on an Emily Dabkowski solo home run to the left center field gap. Dabkowski’s leadoff round-tripper squared the contest at 1-1. Nasland responded in kind by striking out Selena Reyna, India Steward and Becca Rodriguez swinging to limit the damage in the Cardinal half.
The Notre Dame offense exploded after lying in wait in the top of the fourth inning. A Morgan Reed double to center field started the surge, and after Maddie McCracken drew a walk Megan Sorlie dropped an artful slap single to the left side. A fielding error by Ball State shortstop Dabkowski allowed Reed to score for the 2-1 Notre Dame lead. Bailey Bigler ripped an RBI single into right field one batter later to plate McCracken and push the Irish advantage to 3-1. A Karley Wester RBI groundout to shortstop and a Rochford RBI single ended the four-run inning with the Irish ahead 5-1.
Following a Reed single and a McCracken walk, Sorlie added an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning against Ball State reliever Kelsey Schifferdecker to score Reed and extend the Notre Dame margin to 6-1.
Ali Wester singled and stole second base to usher in the Notre Dame top of the sixth inning, which Rochford followed with a four-pitch walk. Kimmy Sullivan picked up an RBI with a pinch-hit single up the middle to plate Wester and extend the Irish advantage to 7-1.
Nasland retired 10 straight batters from the third to the sixth innings before Lee worked a full-count walk with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Houck laced a single into center field to put a pair of Ball State runners aboard, but Dabkowski grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Katie Beriont threw a spotless bottom of the seventh inning to ice the win. Reyna struck out looking, Steward flew out to center field and pinch hitter Aeshia Miles grounded out third base for the closing out.
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.