April 22, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — A slow jaunt through the batting order during the first two innings of Wednesday’s midweek contest for the University of Notre Dame softball team was not, as it turned out, a sign of things to come. The jaunt turned to a gallop with a four-run third inning, and after reaching an all-out sprint with seven runs in the fourth frame, the Irish defeated Toledo 11-1 in five innings in the final nonconference matchup of the season at Melissa Cook Stadium.
No. 24 Notre Dame (38-11) won its 24th straight game overall, running its record to a perfect 17-0 at Melissa Cook Stadium this season. The Irish have outscored opponents 204-39 in their last 24 games since embarking on the streak with a 12-0 win in five innings over No. 9/10 Florida State on March 15.
Notre Dame finished with a 12-3 hits edge over Toledo (19-27), adding four extra base hits and three stolen bases to the offensive output. The Irish are now a perfect 18-0 all-time against the Rockets in a series that dates back to the 1998 season.
Toledo claimed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning after Jessica Lemieux connected on a sacrifice fly to left field, allowing Chandler Rice to tag from third base and come across to score. Junior Allie Rhodes (17-4) forced Celeste Fidge to foul out to left field one batter later, as sophomore All-American and 2015 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Top 26 Finalist Karley Wester made a tremendous diving catch for the inning’s final out.
Rhodes bounced back with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the second. Samantha Showalter popped out to shortstop, and Allissa Turkovich and Kaitlyn Bergman struck out swinging to retire the Toledo side in order.
Rhodes worked out of a second and third jam with two outs in the top of the third inning, inducing a Lemieux pop out to senior co-captain Jenna Simon at second base for the third and final out of the frame.
Notre Dame came roaring back in the bottom of the third. Simon reached on an infield single with one out against Toledo starter Emily Anderson (9-13), taking second by way of a stolen base. Wester followed with an RBI single into left field, scoring Simon to tie the game at 1-1. A two-out RBI double to right center by senior Katey Haus caromed off the glove of Rocket center fielder Alyssa Smith, allowing Wester to come across from second base and give the Irish a 2-1 lead. Junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi punctuated the inning with a deep home run over the center field wall, clocking her ninth homer of the season to push the Notre Dame advantage to 4-1.
Rhodes kept dealing in the top of the fourth inning, striking Fidge out looking and forcing Turkovich to line into a 5-3 double play.
The Irish took complete control of the contest with seven runs on seven hits in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freshman Morgan Reed opened the offensive explosion with a hard single to the gap in right center field. Junior Casey Africano followed with a single of her own to right, driving Reed over to third base on the play. An Africano stolen base moved both runners into scoring position, where junior Megan Sorlie cleared the bases with a two-run single down the right field line to make it 6-1 Notre Dame. A Toledo throwing error after Sorlie took a wide turn at first allowed the Irish right fielder to score on the continuation of the play, putting Notre Dame in front 7-1.
Rocket reliever Maria Gooding was greeted just as harshly by the Notre Dame order with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth. Simon slapped a single up the middle, stole second base, and reached third on a throwing error by the catcher Bergman. Wester erased the error with an emphatic two-run home run that easily cleared the right field fence. Wester’s second long ball of 2015 pushed the Irish in front 9-1. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner reached by way of a hit by pitch one batter later, where Arizmendi brought her in with another no-doubt, two-run home run to right field that capped the Notre Dame scoring at 11-1.
Wester was the top statistical offensive performer for Notre Dame on the day, batting a perfect 3-for-3 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. Arizmendi added four RBI by way of her two home runs, while Sorlie chipped in a pair of RBI. Simon stole two bases and came around to score twice.
Freshman reliever Katie Beriont picked up two quick outs for Notre Dame in the top of the fifth, grounding out pinch hitter Ashley Maynard to second before striking out Kylie Gross looking. After a walk and an illegal pitch moved Sammy Emery into scoring position at second base, Rhodes re-entered in the circle and grounded Rice out to third base to end the game.
Rhodes yielded only three hits during her 4.1 innings pitched, with the one earned run allowed in the first inning. The Notre Dame southpaw did not issue a walk and struck out three Toledo batters to win her 12th straight decision for the Irish.
Notre Dame welcomes North Carolina for the final Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season series of 2015 this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. Due to a scheduling change, the first two games of the series will be played at 1 and 3 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, with the finale scheduled for a noon first pitch on Sunday.
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