April 3, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore outfielder Bailey Bigler laced a two-out RBI single to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the University of Notre Dame softball team to a 5-4 walk-off win over Florida State on Sunday in the nightcap of an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader at Melissa Cook Stadium.
No. 22/20 Notre Dame (26-6, 5-3 ACC) rebounded from a 14-5 defeat at the hands of No. 9/8 Florida State (27-4, 7-1 ACC) in the day’s first game to salvage the series split with the thrilling game two victory. The Irish snapped the 22-game winning streak that the Seminoles carried into the contest, which had been the longest active streak in NCAA Division I softball entering the weekend.
“I really just wanted to work on keeping the inning going and just make solid contact,” Bigler said of her game-winning hit. “Do whatever I could to help my team out. I think it was a big boost for us coming back from some tough losses, we worked really well as a team and rebounded after that first game today. We tried to control the controllables and knock them out like we know we can.”
Notre Dame split its second straight home series with a top 10-ranked Florida State squad after both teams each claimed one game at Melissa Cook Stadium in an ACC doubleheader on April 13, 2014. The Irish have either outright won or split 34 of the 35 all-time conference series they have played at Melissa Cook Stadium since the facility opened in 2008.
“I was really proud of the way that we rebounded,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We played poorly the first game and we challenged them to step up and start fighting. I thought the girls did a great job of that in the second game, and I told the team that they didn’t back down to the challenge and played with toughness. They just fought, and I love that.”
Senior pitcher Allie Rhodes (12-4) tossed a complete-game, seven-hit effort in the win in game two against Florida State, yielding three earned runs while striking out nine Seminole hitters after throwing more than 150 pitches.
“I was going to ride with Allie until I thought she started getting hit,” Gumpf said. “The thing is, she never really got hit hard. She gave up a blooper or two here and there, and one hard-hit ball after a few walks. I wasn’t taking her out until she started getting hit, and in my mind she did not get hit hard.”
Notre Dame finished the day with 17 hits against a vaunted Florida State pitching staff considered among the top in college softball, which included four extra-base hits and eight RBI. The Irish were also successful on all four of their stolen base attempts.
“They’re both really good pitchers, and I can see why they have done such a great job this year,” Gumpf said of Florida State’s primary pitching duo. “I thought we had Jessica Burroughs’ (16-2) number early and game one got away from us, and we didn’t finish it. Meghan King (11-2) did a great job with her up-pitch, and when we were chasing she was very successful. When we made her throw strikes we became very successful.”
Notre Dame continues its nine-game homestand with a pair of midweek games on campus, beginning with IUPUI on Tuesday. The 5 p.m. (ET) game will air live on WatchND.
“We just need to keep looking forward,” Gumpf said. “Hopefully we learned lessons today, and it was a good learning day because we were a tale of two teams. We try to look forward at the next one, that’s all that matters.
“We hadn’t played consistently great lately, and I think this is a good indication of what happens when we play well,” Gumpf added. “We won’t change anything (in preparation) for Tuesday.”
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.
Rachel Nasland (9-1) got off to a fast start against the Florida State order in the top of the first inning. Morgan Klaevemann struck out looking, Ellie Cooper flew out to center field and Jessica Warren fouled out to Micaela Arizmendi at first base.
Ali Wester got the Notre Dame offense rolling in the bottom of the first, ripping a one-out single through the left side off Florida State starter Jessica Burroughs. Burroughs answered by forcing a 5-4-3 double play on her next pitch to end the inning.
Florida State capitalized on two Notre Dame errors to push across three unearned runs in the top of the second inning. Nasland answered back with a strikeout of Cali Harrod and Kimmy Sullivan made a great stab on a line drive to third base to strand one Seminole runner on the bases.
The Irish responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second frame. A soft slap RBI single back to Burroughs by Megan Sorlie scored Arizmendi to trim the deficit to 3-1. A Burroughs wild pitch allowed Sullivan to come home and make it 3-2 Florida State before a huge Burroughs strikeout stranded two Notre Dame runners.
The Seminoles answered right back with three more runs in the top of the third inning. Warren crushed a two-run home run to right center to make it 5-2 Florida State. Sydney Broderick added an RBI single later in the frame to push the Seminoles ahead 6-2.
Ali Wester quickly started a Notre Dame rally in the bottom of the third inning with a hard slap single over the second base bag. After Caitlyn Brooks drew a walk on four pitches, Arizmendi golfed a three-run home run to left field to clear the bases. Arizmendi’s fifth long ball of the season brought the Irish back within one run at 6-5.
Nasland notched an effective top of the fourth inning to sit the Florida State lineup down in order. Harrod popped out to third base, Klaevemann flew out to right field and Cooper lined out to shortstop.
Florida State padded its lead in the top of the fifth when Alex Powers smashed a two-run home run to center field to vault the Seminoles ahead 8-5. Katie Beriont entered in relief and held Florida State scoreless for the remainder of the inning.
The Seminoles added four runs in the top of the sixth inning, with a three-run home run by Powers to center field (12-5). Florida State ultimately chipped in two more runs in the top of the seventh inning to cap the game’s scoring at 14-5.
Co-captain Karley Wester ripped a leadoff triple over the head of Florida State left fielder Victoria East in the bottom of the first inning off Seminole starter Meghan King. Ali Wester followed by reaching on a Florida State fielding error, and after successfully stealing second base allowed Karley Wester to score on a second straight Seminole error in the field to put Notre Dame ahead 1-0.
Allie Rhodes notched consecutive scoreless innings of work in the top of the second against the Florida State order. East struck out swinging with a runner left in scoring position to preserve the Notre Dame lead.
Florida State tied the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the third inning on what appeared to be a routine foul tip to the backstop off the bat of Sydney Broderick. Notre Dame catcher Maddie McCracken was ruled to have interfered on the play, which allowed Morgan Klaevemann to score an unearned run from third base to even the score at 1-1. Rhodes fouled Zoe Casas out to Micaela Arizmendi one batter later to strand the bases loaded with Seminoles.
After Rhodes struck out the side in the top of the fifth inning, Notre Dame claimed what was its biggest lead of the day in the bottom half of the stanza. Caitlyn Brooks led off with a sharp single into center field, and co-captain Carly Piccinich reached second base on a passed ball as a pinch runner. Morgan Reed laid down a successful bunt single to the left side of the infield that moved Piccinich to third base, where an RBI single down the left field line by Kimmy Sullivan put the Irish back on top 2-1. Bigler notched her first crucial hit of the game later in the inning, drilling a two-run triple to center field that plated both Reed and Sullivan to make it 4-1 Notre Dame.
Florida State answered back with a three-spot in the top of the sixth inning. Ellie Cooper ripped a two-out triple of her own down the right field line, scoring Carsyn Gordon, Cali Harrod and Klaevemann to square the game at 4-4. Rhodes grounded Jessica Warren out to shortstop to halt the damage and end the inning.
“The reason they got three runs back in the top of the sixth is because we gave them base runners, and Allie owned that,” Gumpf said. “She threw a great ballgame, and when she didn’t give them runners she dominated the game. She did a great job.”
Notre Dame ended the contest thanks to clutch situational hitting against King in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sullivan snuck a looping single inside the right field line with one out to put Notre Dame in motion before Megan Sorlie dropped a single of her own into left center to move Sullivan into scoring position. Bigler lifted a 1-1 pitch from King into right field with two away to bring Sullivan around to score from second base and give the Irish the win and a crucial ACC series split.
“From this point on we know we’re a top team that can compete with these other top teams,” Bigler said. “We have the ability to put runs on the board with hits, string them together to go for the win. I think it was a great learning experience for us, and it showed that we may be a young team playing against girls who are upperclassmen but it’s still the same game.”
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.