Feb. 26, 2016
by Tony Jones
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame softball team ran its current winning streak to five games with a day one sweep at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic on Friday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Irish blanked East Carolina 8-0 in the first game of the tournament before downing No. 22/RV Central Florida 5-1 in the nightcap.
The triumph for No. 23/RV Notre Dame (9-3) over Central Florida (4-8) was the 600th career victory for Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf. Gumpf became the third Notre Dame coach to surpass the win milestone at the helm of an Irish varsity program. Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw (726) and Legendary fencing coach Michael DeCicco (680) are believed to be the only other varsity athletics mentors to win 600 games during their Notre Dame tenures.
“We were clicking in all phases of the game all day, and we didn’t let anything get to us,” Gumpf said of the day one sweep. “I’m really proud of the team because we played two very good teams out there. ECU and UCF are both good ball clubs and we didn’t let anything phase us. I really loved our approach at the plate and loved how the pitchers did their jobs on the mound. We also had big plays defensively, (third baseman) Melissa Rochford was huge for us today and made great plays. That’s the sign of a great team, when we stay on track and keep things simple and get the job done.”
Senior Allie Rhodes (4-2) was in command in the circle during the opening win of the day against East Carolina (7-6), scattering three hits with one walk in six innings, establishing a career-high with 10 strikeouts on the afternoon. The win was Rhodes’ third straight victory overall.
“Allie has been a mainstay thus far this season, she has been consistent and a go-to,” Gumpf said. “She has been someone we’ve depended on the whole year and will continue to be in that role. Allie has been consistent, solid and steady for our ball club.”
Junior Rachel Nasland (3-0) kept her record perfect in the nightcap against nationally-ranked Central Florida, throwing five shutout innings with five strikeouts. The win avenged Nasland’s first career defeat that occurred on the Central Florida campus as a freshman in 2014, and was Notre Dame’s third top 25 win in its first 12 games of 2016.
“We actually talked about that first game against UCF and I think that’s why she wanted this one so bad,” Gumpf said. “She likely will never forget the lessons learned that first game at UCF, and I’m so proud of Rachel. She had great composure out there, she moved the ball well and they didn’t know what to expect from her. That’s the sign of a good pitcher.”
Junior co-captain Karley Wester led all Notre Dame players with a 5-for-7 (.714) day at the plate combined between the two games, stealing two bases and scoring three runs. Freshman Ali Wester added four crucial hits, including an infield double, along with a team-high three RBI and two runs scored.
“Ali was exactly who we need her to be right now,” Gumpf said. “She’s coming into her own and you can tell.”
Notre Dame returns to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for a pair of Saturday games at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Irish open the second day of play against North Florida at 1:15 p.m. (ET).
“From this point forward we have to play our game and focus on what we’re doing, not worry as much about the opponent,” Gumpf said. “It’s very important that we focus on our team and make sure we take care of business and attack pitches.”
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 8, East Carolina 0
Co-captain Karley Wester led off the top of the first inning against East Carolina pitcher Mary Williams (2-2) with an infield single. After Wester stole second base and Ali Wester sacrificed her over to third, Caitlyn Brooks delivered an RBI groundout to second to put Notre Dame ahead 1-0.
Irish starter Allie Rhodes breezed through the East Carolina order with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first frame. Meredith Mitchell struck out swinging, Kacie Oshiro flew out to center and Casey Alcorn grounded out to Morgan Reed at shortstop.
Rhodes kept the momentum rolling in the bottom of the second inning. Karlie Smith struck out looking, and Sloan Bradford and Kerry Butler each went down on swinging strikes to close the East Carolina ups.
Brooks ripped a leadoff double off the wall in left field to start the Notre Dame top of the fourth inning. A pair of groundouts to second base allowed pinch runner Carly Piccinich to score from third base to extend the Irish lead to 2-0.
Mitchell logged the first East Carolina hit of the day to lead off the bottom of the fourth, but Rhodes held firm from there. A nice play by Micaela Arizmendi at first base snuffed out the lead runner on an attempted sacrifice bunt, Alcorn flew out to right field and Smith grounded out to Ali Wester at second base.
Notre Dame added an insurance run in the top of the fifth inning after Maddie McCracken led off reaching on a fielding error. Bailey Bigler ultimately drove her home with an RBI groundout to make it 3-0.
East Carolina threatened with two runners on and two outs in the home half of the fifth, but Rhodes shut the door on the Pirates again. Megan Quick struck out swinging to hold the runners on the pond.
Piccinich reached after an error in the Irish sixth inning, advancing to third base on a single up the middle by Arizmendi. Reed brought the run around with an RBI ground ball to the right side, vaulting Notre Dame ahead 4-0.
Notre Dame broke the game open in the top of the seventh inning. Megan Sorlie opened the half with a single, advancing into scoring position on an infield hit by Bigler. Karley Wester chipped in an infield knock of her own to lead the bags with no outs, where Ali Wester brought the lead run home on an error to up the Notre Dame lead to 5-0.
Brooks ripped a hard ground ball that was mishandled by the East Carolina shortstop one batter later, clearing the bases of Bigler and Karley Wester to extend the Irish cushion to 7-0. An RBI groundout by Kimmy Sullivan later in the inning closed the Notre Dame scoring at 8-0.
Brooks tossed a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning, forcing Mitchell to foul out to McCracken behind the plate for the game’s last out.
#23 ND 5, #22 UCF 1
Central Florida leadoff batter Linnea Goodman reached with a single in the top of the first inning, but Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland held the Knights in check in the opening frame. A pair of strikeouts, including Brittany Solis swinging with two outs, ended the Central Florida half with Goodman at third.
Karley Wester opened the bottom of the first inning with a single up the middle against All-America Central Florida starter Shelby Turnier (2-8). Ali Wester reached on a fielding error as the next batter, and Turnier walked Micaela Arizmendi to load the bases with one out. An RBI single through the right side off the bat of Melissa Rochford scored the elder Wester and made it 1-0 Notre Dame. A Morgan Reed sacrifice fly plated Ali Wester for a 2-0 Irish advantage.
Central Florida looked to push its first run across on a two-out single by Cassady Brewer, but Reed made a great play at shortstop to gun down Autumn Gillespie trying to score from third base. The final out kept the Knights off the board in the top of the second inning.
Nasland held the Knights at bay in the top of the fourth inning with a stellar frame. Solis flew out to center field, Jessica Ujvari grounded out to third base and Gillespie popped out to third base.
Ali Wester continued her steady day at the plate in the top of the sixth inning. After Maddie McCracken and Karley Wester each reached with singles, the Irish second baseman connected on a two-run single into center field to plate both runs and make it 5-0 Notre Dame.
Central Florida looked to start the rally in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Katie Beriont, as Ujvari connected on a solo home run to close the gap to 5-1. Beriont settled in with three straight outs to end the game, grounding Brewer out back to the circle to close the frame.
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.