Feb. 28, 2016
by Tony Jones
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The good vibes continued to roll on Sunday for the University of Notre Dame softball team in its final game of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. Facing an early 2-0 deficit, the Irish scored six runs over the final four innings to complete a 6-2 comeback victory over Penn State at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
No. 23/RV Notre Dame (12-3) capped a perfect 5-0 road trip to the Citrus Classic for the second time in three seasons, rolling through an undefeated tournament slate for the third time at the event since 2013. The Irish outscored opponents 33-6 during the weekend, which included a 56-22 edge in hits and an 8-4 margin in stolen bases.
Mollie Sorenson picked up the first Penn State (7-6) hit of the day in the top of the first inning, singling through the right side off Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland (4-0). Nasland held the runner at first base by flying Macy Jones out to left field and grounding Alyssa VanDerveer out to Ali Wester at second base.
Co-captain Karley Wester opened the bottom of the first with an infield single and a stolen base into second, but was put out trying to take third on a wide throw by the Penn State backstop VanDerveer. Nittany Lion starter Christy Von Pusch worked around an Ali Wester hit to strand one Notre Dame runner on base.
Penn State raced out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Jones logged an RBI single and Shelby Miller scored on an Irish fielding error. Nasland bounced back with a swinging strikeout to retire VanDerveer and end the Penn State ups.
Nasland notched her second win of the weekend with four innings of five-hit softball, allowing one earned run and two walks while striking out two Penn State batters. The Irish junior right-hander was previously victorious on Friday (5-1) against No. 22/RV Central Florida on the opening day of the Citrus Classic.
Karley Wester led off the bottom of the third inning with a single through the left side before moving to third base on pair of Notre Dame ground ball outs. Micaela Arizmendi ripped a two-out triple into the right field corner later in the inning, plating Wester to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Notre Dame rallied to take its first lead of the ball game in the bottom of the fourth inning against Penn State reliever Marlaina Laubach (2-2). Morgan Reed and Megan Sorlie each singled to put a pair of runners on, where a Kimmy Sullivan sacrifice bunt moved Reed and Sorlie into scoring position. Bailey Bigler ripped an RBI single into right field to score Reed, and a Penn State fielding error allowed Sorlie to round third base and head home for the 3-2 Irish advantage.
Allie Rhodes took over in relief with a pair of runners on and nobody out in the top of the fifth frame and promptly shut Penn State down for the remainder of the contest. Mollie Sorenson grounded out to shortstop, Jones struck out swinging and VanDerveer grounded out to third base to strand both runners and maintain the 3-2 Notre Dame lead.
After Rhodes rolled through the top of the sixth with a 1-2-3 frame that included a strikeout, Notre Dame pushed three runs across to push the game out of reach in the home half of the inning. Sorlie kicked the inning off with a single through the left side. A sacrifice bunt from Maddie McCracken moved Sorlie into scoring position, where Bigler’s second RBI single of the game plated Sorlie and extended the Irish cushion to 4-2. Ali Wester reached on a two-out single to left center, setting the table for a two-run Caitlyn Brooks double off the center field fence. The bases-clearing hit made it 6-2 in favor of the Irish.
Rhodes worked a scoreless top of the seventh inning to nail down her second save of the season. Reina Furuya worked a one-out walk that led to Miller reaching on a fielder’s choice, and Sorenson chipped in a two-out single to left field to try to start the Penn State rally. A groundout from Jones unassisted to Arizmendi at first base notched the game’s final out.
Rhodes completed a stellar weekend on the mound that saw her post a 2-0 record, one save and allow only one earned run in 14.2 innings of work while striking out 21 opposing batters. Rhodes has earned a winning decision in each of her last six outings.
Ali Wester, Sorlie, Karley Wester and Bigler each finished with two hits on the day to pace the Notre Dame offense, while Brooks and Bigler added a team-high two RBI and Sorlie contributed two runs. Karley Wester assumed solo fourth place on the all-time Irish stolen bases list with her 62nd career successful swiped bag in the bottom of the first inning.
Notre Dame begins its Spring Break road trip next weekend in Fort Myers, Florida, taking part in the Florida Gulf Coast Round Robin against Stony Brook, Ball State and host Florida Gulf Coast. The Irish open the tournament on March 5 at 1:15 p.m. (ET) against Stony Brook at the FGCU Softball Complex.
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 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.