March 1, 2015
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – After a rain-filled Saturday canceled all games during the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, Sunday brought warm temperatures and a bright blue sky to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The University of Notre Dame softball team closed the tournament with a 3-1 mark for the weekend after splitting its Sunday contests, a 6-1 defeat at the hands of No. RV Mississippi State and a 7-0 shutout victory over Omaha.
No. 23 Notre Dame (12-6) has now won seven of its last eight games, and is scheduled to open Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play next weekend at North Carolina State in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester was the leading Notre Dame offensive player on the day, finishing with three hits, two RBI and a pair of runs scored. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner and sophomore Dana Bouquet added runs batted in to the Irish cause. Senior Cassidy Whidden tied Wester for the team lead in runs scored with two.
Sophomore pitcher Rachel Nasland (5-3) bounced back from a rough outing against Mississippi State to shut down Omaha (6-7) in the nightcap, scattering two hits and striking out eight batters in a complete game shutout of the Mavericks. Nasland threw nine innings of four-hit softball in all on Sunday, adding four walks and 10 strikeouts.
Junior Allie Rhodes was masterful in relief against Mississippi State (16-3), hurling 2.2 innings of shutout ball with two strikeouts to close the game against the Bulldogs.
Notre Dame completed its tournament schedule with five victories over teams that were ranked or receiving national top 25 votes. The two Irish top 10 victories against No. 6/7 UCLA (8-4 on Feb. 6) and No. 7/8 Georgia (5-3 on Feb. 21) remain the only time in program history that Notre Dame has won multiple games over top 10 ranked foes in the month of February during a given season.
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Game 2 – No. 23 Notre Dame 7, Omaha 0
Omaha picked up a double and had a runner reach on a hit by pitch in the top of the first inning, but sophomore Rachel Nasland settled in from there. Strikeouts of Allie Mathewson, Tonya Peterson and Lizzie Noble retired the Maverick side.
Nasland posted another scoreless inning against the Omaha order in the top of the third. Tara Trede and Mathewson each popped out to senior Katey Haus at third base, before Nasland got Lia Mancuso to chase strike three for the frame’s final out.
Senior Cassidy Whidden became the first Notre Dame base runner to reach against Omaha starter Jaylee Hinrichs (3-2) in the bottom of the third inning after being hit by a pitch with one out. A stolen base by the Irish catcher moved Whidden into scoring position. Sophomore All-American Karley Wester came through on the RBI chance two batters later, lacing an RBI single to left center to plate Whidden for the 1-0 Notre Dame lead.
It was another 1-2-3 inning for Nasland and the Irish defense in the top of the fourth inning. Campbell Ditto and Peterson were retired on infield pop outs, and Noble struck out swinging to close the Omaha ups.
Senior Katey Haus legged out an infield single to lead off the Notre Dame fourth inning, and after moving over to second base on the previous at-bat came all the way around to score on an infield ground out from freshman Sara White. Haus’ heads-up play enabled the Irish to extend their advantage to 2-0.
Omaha’s Megan May finally broke through with a hit against Nasland in the top of the fifth, but the Notre Dame right-hander buckled down and forced a pair of fly ball outs to strand the Maverick runner at first base.
Crafty running by Notre Dame in the bottom of the fifth inning pushed across another Irish run. Junior Megan Sorlie reached on a one-out walk, and a Wester infield single moved Sorlie into scoring position. Omaha pitcher Hinrichs threw the ball wide of first after Wester was already through the bag, advancing both runners an additional base. Sorlie was gunned down at the plate on a fielder’s choice one batter later following a senior co-captain Jenna Simon ground ball to shortstop, but an aggressive turn by Simon at first displaced the Maverick defense and enabled Wester to cruise in and dive safely across the plate (3-0).
Mathewson drew a four-pitch walk for Omaha in the top of the sixth inning, but Nasland continued to fool the opposition. Swinging strikeouts by Mancuso and Ditto and a Peterson ground out to Haus at third base kept the Mavericks off the scoreboard.
A wild pitch and throwing error on Hinrichs in the bottom of the sixth allowed pinch runner Morgan Reed and junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi to score, plating a pair of Notre Dame runs (5-0). Omaha reliever Carly Nielsen hit Whidden with a pitch before pinch hitter Kimmy Sullivan laced a single to center, loading the bases with one out. Wester and pinch hitter Dana Bouquet followed with back-to-back RBI singles to score junior Carly Piccinich and Whidden, upping the Irish lead to 7-0.
Game 1 – No. RV Mississippi State 6, No. 23 Notre Dame 1
A pair of hit by pitches and a walk loaded the bases for Mississippi State with one out in the top of the first inning. A Notre Dame wild pitch scored Katie Anne Bailey from third to give the Bulldogs a quick 1-0 lead. Sophomore Rachel Nasland came back with the final two outs, freezing Ashley Phillips looking on a 3-2 pitch for a strikeout before forcing Kayla Winkfield to fly out to right field to leave the bases loaded.
Senior Katey Haus led off the top of the second inning with a double down the left field line. An infield ground ball moved Haus to third base, but Mississippi State starter Alexis Silkwood (11-2) retired the next two Notre Dame hitters to strand the runner on the base paths.
Julia Echols added to the Bulldogs lead in the bottom of the second, clubbing a two-out, two-run home run to push Mississippi State in front 3-0.
Erica Gaul led off the bottom of the third frame with a solo home run against Notre Dame reliever Katie Beriont, sending a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right center to push the Mississippi State lead to 4-0. Amanda Ivy followed with a one-out RBI base knock later in the inning, scoring Phillips (5-0). A Notre Dame throwing error brought Loryn Nichols in from third to make it 6-0 Mississippi State.
Great defensive plays from freshman Sara White behind junior Allie Rhodes in the bottom of the fifth inning kept Mississippi State off the scoreboard. White was responsible for all three outs, catching a Nichols pop up, putting out Ivy at second on a fielder’s choice and fielding a sharp grounder to throw out Echols at first base.
Notre Dame manufactured a run against Silkwood in the top of the sixth. After sophomore All-American Karley Wester reached on an error, senior co-captain Jenna Simon moved Wester into scoring position with a drag sacrifice bunt down the first base line. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner came through with a single up the middle, scoring Wester to trim the deficit to 6-1.