March 30, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A two-hit performance in the circle keyed by a three-run bottom of the third inning lifted the University of Notre Dame softball team to a 5-0 midweek shutout of IPFW on a cloudy Wednesday evening at Melissa Cook Stadium. The nonconference matchup was officially called with one runner on and nobody out in the top of the seventh inning due torrential rain and thunderstorms in the local South Bend area.
With the win, No. 22/20 Notre Dame (25-5) secured its 16th straight nonconference home victory in the regular season dating back to March of 2013. Since a defeat at DePaul on April 4, 2014, the Irish have won 18 straight midweek contests overall. Notre Dame also improved to 5-0 all-time in varsity games against IPFW (10-23), and have outscored the Mastodons 38-4 in those meetings.
Allie Rhodes cruised through the top of the first inning against the IPFW order to begin the game. Lauren Watson grounded out to Notre Dame catcher Maddie McCracken, Emily Olszewski grounded out to third base and Sierra Miranda struck out swinging to end the Mastodon half of the frame.
Notre Dame struck quickly in the bottom of the first. Co-captain Karley Wester slapped a leadoff single into left field before stealing second base against IPFW starter Elizabeth Snodgrass (1-4). Ali Wester ripped an RBI single up the middle one batter later to score Karley Wester and put the Irish in front 1-0. Following a hit by pitch Notre Dame looked to keep the momentum rolling with two on and two outs later in the inning, but an out called on a runner leaving early stranded two on the base paths.
Rhodes remained unscathed through the top of the IPFW second inning as well. The Irish defense erased a Demitra Burns single by grounding Amber Davis into a double play that covered Melissa Rochford at third to co-captain Carly Piccinich at second to Micaela Arizmendi at first base.
Rhodes was strong in her two innings of work as the Notre Dame starter. She allowed the lone single to Burns and added one strikeout on 27 pitches in an effective no decision.
Rachel Nasland (9-0) entered for Rhodes in the top of the third inning and kept the momentum rolling from the Notre Dame circle. Jessica Murray flew out to Ali Wester in left field, Caitlyn DeLong popped up to Rochford at third base and Jenna Balthazor struck out swinging to stall IPFW in the frame.
With Karley Wester at second base following a single and steal in the bottom of the third, Caitlyn Brooks laced an RBI single through the right side to put Notre Dame ahead 2-0. Arizmendi then crushed the first pitch she saw from Snodgrass one batter later for a towering two-run home run that got caught up in the stadium netting well beyond the center field wall. Arizmendi’s fourth home run of the season made it 4-0 Irish.
Nasland battled back from a leadoff walk issued to Watson in the top of the fourth to sit the next three IPFW hitters down in order. Miranda and Kelly Pevely each went down on swinging strikes to insure another Notre Dame shut out inning.
Notre Dame would add a final insurance run during its ups in the bottom of the fifth inning. Karley Wester looked to rip her third hit of the day through the right side with two on and one out, but a diving play from the IPFW second baseman Olszewski took a sure base knock away for the Irish leadoff batter. Casey Africano was able to come across and score on the RBI groundout, vaulting the Irish ahead 5-0.
Karley Wester ultimately paced all players in the contest with two hits and two runs scored, adding a pair of stolen bases to her lone RBI. Arizmendi chipped in two runs batted on with her home run, while Ali Wester, Brooks, Africano and McCracken also contributed hits to the Notre Dame cause.
Nasland added a 1-2-3 top of the fifth inning to her game total, popping Murray out to Arizmendi at first base for the final out of the fifth. The Irish right-hander spun three no-hit innings to go along with one walk and four strikeouts in her first relief appearance at Melissa Cook Stadium this season. Wednesday’s victory over IPFW was Nasland’s third win earned after entering as a relief pitcher in 2016.
Sara White relieved Nasland and posted a scoreless top of the sixth inning for Notre Dame against the Mastodons. DeLong led off the stanza with a single to left center field, but White responded with two quick strikeouts of Sydney Windlan and Watson before Olszewski lined out to Ali Wester at second base.
Notre Dame continues its 10-game homestand by welcoming No. 9/8 Florida State for an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. All games from the ACC set will air live on ESPN3.
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.