April 8, 2017
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball pitching staff showed its true mettle against one of the top Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) offenses in North Carolina on Saturday. Rachel Nasland spun a masterful nine innings of work in a 2-1 Notre Dame walk-off win, before Katie Beriont tossed her first career no-hitter to lead the Irish to a 2-0 victory and day one sweep of the Tar Heels on a beautiful Melissa Cook Stadium afternoon.
?? Pitching on point
?? Defense stepped up
?? Offense clutched up
And the Irish won two ÃƒÂ¢Ã‹Å“Ã‹Å“️ pic.twitter.com/c8yfFtvI9x
– Notre Dame Softball (@NDsoftball) April 8, 2017
How It Happened
North Carolina (30-11, 9-5 ACC) took a quick lead with a solo home run in the top of the first inning, moving the Tar Heels ahead 1-0. Rachel Nasland forced consecutive outs to hold the Tar Heels at bay.
Notre Dame (21-14, 8-6 ACC) answered in the bottom of the first. Karley Wester led off with a single up the middle, taking second base on a sacrifice bunt. Caitlyn Brooks brought the run home with an RBI single through the right side, plating Wester to square the game at 1-1.
Nasland buzzed through the top of the second frame against the North Carolina order. Three straight flyouts that remained near the infield slowed the Tar Heels in the frame.
The Irish threatened in the bottom of the third after Karley Wester reached with a one-out walk and stole second base. A ground ball moved Wester to third, but a strikeout left the go-ahead run stranded.
Nasland followed with a three-up, three-down top of the fourth inning. Three North Carolina groundouts sat the visitors down in order.
A leadoff single tried to spark the North Carolina fifth inning, but Nasland was once more up to the task. A groundout, flyout and swinging strikeout left the runner aboard.
The Tar Heels located an infield single to kick start the top of the sixth with one out, and a walk placed the lead runner in scoring position. Nasland ended the threat with a swinging strikeout to stem the Tar Heel tide.
Nasland escaped the seventh and eighth innings unblemished as the period of free softball got underway. A one-out walk and single up the middle for North Carolina started the Tar Heels cooking in the top of the ninth. North Carolina managed to load the bases by way of a walk, but Nasland induced a swinging strikeout and groundout to shortstop to give Notre Dame its chance in the home half of the ninth.
The Irish capitalized on the opportunity. North Carolina had retired 13 straight Notre Dame hitters since the fourth inning when Morgan Reed ripped a leadoff double down the left field line to open the bottom of the ninth. Brooks dropped a single into right center to push Reed to third base. For the second straight weekend, Melissa Rochford delivered when her number was called and laced a walk-off RBI single to left that scored Reed for the 2-1 win.
Notre Dame and starter Katie Beriont sped through a fast top of the first inning against the North Carolina order. A popout to Morgan Reed at shortstop and back-to-back flyouts to Karley Wester in center, including one of the diving variety, ended the Tar Heel ups.
It was more of the same for Beriont in the top of the second. A fly ball out to center, a groundout to shortstop and a swinging strikeout turned North Carolina aside in the half. North Carolina managed a leadoff walk in the top of the third inning, but a pair of groundouts and a flyout to center ended the inning.
After a three-up, three-down effort for Beriont in the top of the fourth, Notre Dame struck at the plate in the bottom of the inning. Katie Marino ripped a one-out single through the left side, and Kimmy Sullivan pushed Marino along with an infield single. Maddie McCracken cashed in with two outs by ripping an RBI single to right center that scored Marino for the 1-0 Irish advantage. Karley Wester immediately followed with an RBI base hit up the chute to plate Sullivan and extend the Notre Dame lead to 2-0.
The final North Carolina baserunner of the night reached by way of a Notre Dame error with two away in the top of the sixth. Beriont remained unfazed by the runner and immediately forced a groundout to third base.
Beriont put the finishing touches on her first career no-hitter with a spotless top of the seventh inning. Two groundouts to second base and a line drive out to right field closed out the junior southpaw’s stellar start.
Notre Dame secured its third straight ACC series victory by taking both games on Saturday from North Carolina, improving to 7-0 at Melissa Cook Stadium thus far in 2017 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Katie Beriont threw the first seven-inning Notre Dame no-hitter since Laura Winter blanked DePaul on April 21, 2012, at Melissa Cook Stadium – Allie Rhodes (Feb. 9, 2014 against Morehead State, 9-0), Winter (April 18, 2014, perfect game at Virginia, 8-0) and Rachel Nasland (March 15, 2015 at No. 9 Florida State, 12-0) had thrown no-hitters of the five-inning variety since 2012 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Beriont’s effort was the 36th solo no-hitter (43rd overall) in Notre Dame program history ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Nasland threw a career-high nine innings to earn the game one win, scattering six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts on 142 pitches ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Melissa Rochford thumped her third game-tying or winning hit in the seventh inning or later this season with her RBI base knock that scored Morgan Reed in the bottom of the ninth – Rochford tied Kimmy Sullivan for the team lead with three hits during the doubleheader ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Karley Wester stole a pair of bases to inch within one career steal of tying baseball great Steve Stanley (1999-2002, 116) for the all-time Notre Dame stolen bases record.
The Irish and North Carolina will clash in the series finale on Sunday at noon (ET) at Melissa Cook Stadium. Live coverage will be available on ACC Network Extra.
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 director 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 Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.