Feb. 27, 2016
by Tony Jones
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – A dominant offensive performance and stellar starting pitching were the keys for the University of Notre Dame softball team Saturday during its second leg of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Irish defeated North Florida 7-3 in the opening game of the day before shutting out Bryant 7-0 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
No. 23/RV Notre Dame (11-3) earned its seventh straight win after improving to a perfect 4-0 during the tournament. The Irish belted 28 combined hits against North Florida (3-11) and Bryant (0-4), which included seven doubles and 13 RBI on the offensive end. Notre Dame base runners tacked on three stolen bases.
Freshman Melissa Rochford led all Notre Dame batters with two doubles and four RBI, while classmate Ali Wester chipped in a team-high five hits and three runs scored during the tournament doubleheader. Senior Micaela Arizmendi chipped in four base hits, including two doubles, to go along with a pair of RBI and runs scored.
Notre Dame’s starting pitchers were up to the task in the Saturday sweep as well, kick started by a sterling outing from senior Allie Rhodes (5-2) against North Florida. Rhodes allowed one earned run in 5.2 innings of work, walking one and striking out nine Osprey hitters to claim her fourth consecutive win.
It was sophomore Katie Beriont (2-1) who controlled the game virtually from the outset against Bryant, retiring the final 19 Bulldog batters she faced for her first career solo shutout. Beriont walked one and struck out four in the one-hit effort on only 66 pitches to key the Notre Dame pitching attack.
Notre Dame closes its 2016 Diamond 9 Citrus Classic schedule on Sunday at 10 a.m. (ET) against Penn State at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Irish and Nittany Lions will square off on Field 12 of the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
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.
#23 ND 7, North Florida 3
Ali Wester continued her hot tournament at the plate with a one-out single into left center field against North Florida pitcher Janet Snipe (0-4) in the bottom of the first inning. Melissa Rochford followed with an RBI double down the left field line, scoring Wester to make it 1-0 Notre Dame. Doubles by Micaela Arizmendi and Morgan Reed pushed the Irish lead to 2-0.
Allie Rhodes kept her stellar start in the circle rolling in the top of the second, retiring the first six North Florida hitters she faced. A 1-2-3 outing in the second, including a strikeout of Jenna Brownell, allowed Rhodes to hang a second zero in the Osprey run column.
Notre Dame opened up the offense in the bottom of the third inning. A single from Karley Wester and a double to left field by Ali Wester set the table for Rochford, whose two-run single made it 4-0 Irish. Arizmendi brought Rochford home with a single to right field one batter later, putting Notre Dame in front 5-0. Carly Piccinich chipped in an infield RBI single later in the frame to extend the Irish lead to 6-0.
North Florida picked up its first run in the top of the fourth, as Brownell sent an RBI single off the left field wall to score Shelby Duncan and trim the Osprey deficit to 6-1. Rhodes retired the next two North Florida batters to end the inning.
After North Florida chipped away at the lead further with a run in the top of the fifth to close the gap to 6-2, Notre Dame answered with an insurance run in the bottom half. An RBI single with the bases loaded by Karley Wester scored MK Bonamy to up the Irish cushion to 7-2.
North Florida took a chunk out of the deficit in the top of the sixth against reliever Sara White, as Lexi Taylor was hit by pitch with the bases loaded to narrow the margin to 7-3 with one out. Rhodes re-entered the circle and struck out Katie Mandigo and Navia Penrod to leave the bases full of Osprey.
Rhodes picked up strikeouts of Duncan and Stacy McClelland swinging to lead off the top of the seventh inning, and a Brownell single led to Jen Valle grounding into a game-ending fielder’s choice.
#23 ND 7, Bryant 0
Karley Wester opened the top of the first inning with a single back to Bryant pitcher Hayley Bottino (0-1). After Wester stole second base and moved to third on an infield groundout, Caitlyn Brooks crushed an RBI double to right center to put Notre Dame on top 1-0. After Micaela Arizmendi singled one batter later, Brooks came in to score on a double-steal attempt to make it quickly 2-0 Irish.
Katie Beriont stranded two runners on the bases in the bottom of the first before stringing together a three-up, three-down effort in the second inning. After Rachel Monroe struck out swinging, Lauren Keast grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.
Notre Dame tacked on three more runs in the top of the third inning. An Ali Wester single and steal and Arizmendi RBI double quickly made it 3-0 Irish. Melissa Rochford followed with a double to left center one batter later that allowed Arizmendi to score from second base, extending the Notre Dame lead to 4-0. An RBI single by Morgan Reed ultimately brought Rochford in for the 5-0 Irish advantage.
Beriont kept the momentum on the mound rolling in the bottom of the third inning. Jill Staley grounded out to Rochford at third base, Kaleigh Goulart struck out looking and Bottino grounded out back to the circle.
Bryant went three-up, three-down against the Notre Dame southpaw hurler once more in the bottom of the fourth stanza. Elie Madsen grounded out to shortstop, Taylor Burger grounded out to third base and Jessica Gradillas grounded out to third for another Beriont 1-2-3 inning.
The Irish offense erupted for insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning against Bryant relief pitcher Colby Norris. Kimmy Sullivan began the inning with a pinch-hit single to center, advancing to second base on a wild pitch. A Carly Piccinich single to third base advanced the lead runner to third base, where an Ali Wester sacrifice fly to left upped the Notre Dame cushion to 6-0. Brooks followed with an RBI single up the middle to bring in Piccinich for the final Irish run of the ball game (7-0).
Beriont continued to shine over the final two innings, blanking Bryant in both frames to cap her streak of retiring the final 19 batters of the contest in order. Gradillas grounded out to Reed at shortstop for the game’s last out.
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.