April 28, 2015
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The hot streak that the University of Notre Dame softball team has ridden since the middle of March propelled the Irish to the second-longest winning streak in the NCAA this season at 24 games. While the prolific streak might have ended last weekend with an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) setback against North Carolina, someone forgot to tell the Notre Dame offense.
The Irish closed the 2015 regular season schedule with an emphatic performance, overmatching Michigan State 16-1 in five innings on Tuesday at Secchia Stadium. The victory clinched the 17th 40-win season in the 27-year history of the Notre Dame softball program, with the Irish reaching 40 wins for the seventh consecutive season.
No. 22/23 Notre Dame (40-12) finished the regular season unbeaten in nonconference play since March 1, winning all 12 non-league games during that span. The Irish also clinched their 16th run-rule triumph of 2015 after belting 16 hits against Michigan State (17-34) Tuesday night.
A total of 11 Notre Dame players logged at least one hit during the contest against the Spartans. The Irish have surpassed the 10-hit plateau 24 different times this season, including six of the past 10 starts overall.
Senior Katey Haus picked up the first Notre Dame hit of the day against Michigan State starter Kristina Zalewski (13-14) with two outs, singling through the left side in the top of the first inning. Junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi took a fly ball deep to opposite field in left, but the warning track shot was caught by Spartan left fielder Kassidy Kujawa for the final out of the inning.
Junior Allie Rhodes (19-4) found herself in a slight jam in the bottom of the first inning, walking Lea Foerster and McKenzie Long. Strikeouts of Kujawa and Stephanie Sanders, and a foul out by Sarah Gutknecht to Arizmendi at first base stranded two Michigan State runners on base.
Notre Dame erupted for three runs in the top of the second inning against Zalewski. A wild pitch scored senior Cassidy Whidden from third base with one out, giving the Irish a 1-0 lead. An RBI ground ball by junior Megan Sorlie pushed freshman Morgan Reed across from third later in the inning (2-0). The second Michigan State error of the inning with sophomore All-American and 2015 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Top 26 Finalist Karley Wester at the plate allowed Sorlie to score from second base, putting Notre Dame in front 3-0.
Haus worked a full-count walk to lead off the top of the third, and the second time through Arizmendi left no doubts against Zalewski. Arizmendi’s 11th home run of the season carried deep and over the left field wall, pushing Notre Dame ahead 5-0.
Singles from Reed and freshman Sara White kept the third rolling after Whidden walked. Sorlie knocked an RBI single up the middle, extending the Notre Dame lead to 6-0. Simon chipped in an RBI infield single, and Wester and senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner added sacrifice flies to up the Irish edge to 9-0. Haus sent an RBI single through the right side to cap the inning’s scoring at seven runs and a 10-0 Notre Dame lead.
Rhodes hung another zero on the Michigan State side in the bottom of the third inning. Long slashed a single up the middle with two outs, but Gutknecht flew out to Sorlie in right field to end the Spartan threat.
Reed walked to open the top of the fourth before moving into scoring position on a wild pitch. Sophomore pinch hitter Kimmy Sullivan came through on the RBI chance, clocking a sharp single up the middle of the diamond to score Reed and make it 11-0 Notre Dame. Sophomore Dana Bouquet notched her first career double to right center field one batter later, and junior pinch hitter Carly Piccinich walked to load the bases. Koerner drew a bases-loaded walk to score Bouquet (12-0), and Haus singled through the left side, bringing Piccinich around for the 13-0 Notre Dame edge. Junior Casey Africano wrapped up the scoring barrage with an RBI single through the right side that scored Koerner (14-0).
Michigan State clawed a one-out single down the right field line in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Rhodes forced consecutive ground outs to the Notre Dame middle infield to keep the shutout intact.
Rhodes allowed no runs in her four full innings in the circle, yielding three hits to the Michigan State offense. Rhodes walked three and struck out two Spartan hitters, winning her 13th straight decision since March 21.
Notre Dame closed its scoring surge with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. Piccinich walked for the second straight place appearance against Michigan State reliever Valerie Kaff, and Wester ripped a single through the right side. Koerner crushed a 2-2 pitch off the glove of the Spartan third baseman Gutknecht, with the Michigan State error clearing the bases to vault the Irish in front 16-0.
Michigan State spoiled the shutout bid with one out in the bottom of the fifth, as Kujawa clubbed a solo home run deep and gone over the left field wall to trim the deficit to 16-1. Freshman Katie Beriont forced ground outs from Sanders to second base and Long to first base for the game’s final outs.
Haus set a new career-high in hits with a perfect 4-for-4 day, driving in two runs while scoring once. Arizmendi and Reed added two hits, while Reed scored a team-high three runs. Five different Notre Dame players contributed two RBI apiece to the Irish cause.
Notre Dame is idle until opening play at the 2015 ACC Championship on May 7 at the Tech Softball Park in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Irish opponent and game time will be determined following the conclusion of the conference regular season schedule on May 3.
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