Feb. 21, 2015
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – The University of Notre Dame softball team capitalized on timely situational hitting, opposing defensive miscues and another solid tandem outing in the circle to down No. 7/8 Georgia 5-3 on Saturday in the final Irish game of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex. The No. 23/24 Irish finished the tournament 4-1, winning each of their final four games.
Notre Dame (9-5) claimed its second top 10 victory of the 2015 season after previously downing No. 6/7 UCLA 8-4 on Feb. 6. The Irish have won a pair of games over top 10 ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since taking two games against No. 9 Louisville on May 4-5, 2013. It was the first time Notre Dame has claimed multiple road or neutral victories over top 10 foes in the same season since the 2001 campaign.
“I just like the way that the girls are playing right now,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They’re playing hard, and we are tough to get out with our speed and what we’re doing on the bases. It’s fun to watch us play.”
Senior co-captain Jenna Simon pulled a one out single through the right side in the top of the first inning to get the Notre Dame offense off to a fast start. Georgia starter Chelsea Wilkinson (8-2) quickly forced a double play ground out one batter later to end the Irish threat.
Junior starter Allie Rhodes (4-2) retired Cortni and Sydni Emanuel on ground ball outs in the bottom of the first inning before Paige Wilson worked a four-pitch walk. An Alex Hugo single put a pair of Georgia runners on the base paths, but Simon made a sprawling catch in foul ground to retire Tina Iosefa and end the frame.
“The pitching staff also did a great job today,” Gumpf said. “Georgia has some great hitters and Allie did enough.”
“The great thing is Allie saw what she can do, and learned from where she might have fallen short, and she knows what she can do to be better,” Gumpf added. “She knows that now. She doesn’t need to finish games for us but if she can get us there, we’re good.”
Senior Katey Haus worked a walk against Wilkinson with one out in the top of the second, moving into scoring position on a single from junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi. Wilkinson settled in and struck out the next two Notre Dame batters swinging, retiring the Irish side on strikes.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a high chopper from Samantha LaZear back to the circle, bringing Kaylee Puailoa in from third base. Haus made a great stab on a hot shot from Cortni Emanuel to gun the speedy Georgia leadoff hitter out at first to allow Rhodes to cut off the Bulldog surge.
“I just went in attacking hitters like I always do, I don’t really look at the name on the jersey,” Rhodes said. “I go in the same every game. Coach knows a lot about the other team’s hitters and what we need to do to beat them. I listen to her and throw my hardest.”
Notre Dame exploded for four runs in the top of the third frame. Freshman Morgan Reed led off with a walk, advancing into scoring position on a passed ball. Sophomore All-American Karley Wester reached on a Georgia fielding error to give the Irish two on with nobody out. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner delivered with an RBI single to right, and a pair of Bulldog errors allowed both Wester and Koerner to score to rocket Notre Dame in front 3-1. A solo home run two batters later by Haus upped the lead to 4-1.
“It was a really good feeling to get runs early, and we had a few big plays early in the game as well,” Rhodes said. “I knew my defense was behind me the whole time.”
Georgia responded with one run in the bottom of the third, as an Iosefa double down the left field line scored Sydni Emanuel to close the Bulldog gap to 4-2. Rhodes responded with a swinging strikeout of Puailoa to escape the inning.
Simon reached on a hit by pitch to begin the top of the fifth inning before Koerner followed with a single up the middle. Both Notre Dame runners then advanced into scoring position on the fourth Georgia error of the ball game. A Wilkinson wild pitch with two outs brought Simon in from third to make it 5-2 Irish.
Georgia kept clawing back in the bottom of the fifth, as Hugo sent a screaming solo shot over the right field fence that was just out of the reach of junior Megan Sorlie to bring the Bulldogs within two at 5-3. Rhodes induced an Iosefa fly out to center one batter later to retire the Georgia order.
Rhodes won her second straight decision in her first career start against a top 10 opponent, yielding three runs in five full innings of work. Rhodes surrendered one walk and struck out three Georgia batters.
“I am always looking at the next hitter, what we have to do to beat the next hitter,” Rhodes said. “I don’t really let it bother me if they get a hit because they are a good team. You just have to look at how to beat the next one.”
The Bulldogs pushed a run as far as third with two outs against sophomore Rachel Nasland in the bottom of the sixth inning. LaZear laced what looked to be a no doubt single into left, but Wester raced from her position to dive on the dirt for an improbable grab and the final out of the Georgia stanza.
“It just changed everything, that was the game,” Gumpf said. “That play by Wester was the game.”
Sydni Emanuel picked up a one-out single for Georgia in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Nasland forced two fly ball outs off the bats of Wilson and Hugo to end the game and secure her first save of the season.
“What we did this weekend really well was focus on just us and not our opponents,” Gumpf said. “I think that’s exactly what we have to continue to do, focus on us.”
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, Media Relations Assistant