May 21, 2017
AUBURN, Ala. – A fortuitous set of circumstances played into the hands of California in a Saturday elimination game against the University of Notre Dame softball team. The Golden Bears managed a three-run rally in torrential and hazardous conditions, then held on during the resumption of play Sunday morning for a 5-3 victory at Auburn’s Jane B. Moore Field.
How It Happened
California (32-23) scratched out the first run of the game by way of a Notre Dame fielding error in the top of the second inning, taking a 1-0 lead in the process. A ground ball out to second base one batter later ended the Golden Bears half.
Notre Dame (34-23) emerged as the better team in the middle innings of the ballgame. Irish starter Rachel Nasland retired seven straight batters from the end of the second through the fourth innings. A swinging strikeout capped the top of the fourth of the one-run game.
The Irish took a well-deserved lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Karley Wester led off with a single up the middle, and Ali Wester followed with a bunt single of her own. Morgan Reed wasted little time with runners on the pond, blasting the first pitch she saw well beyond the fence in right field. Reed’s ninth home run of the year made it 3-1 Notre Dame.
The rains came in the top of the fifth inning. Despite the adverse conditions, play was allowed to continue until just after California assumed the lead by way of a fielder’s choice RBI and two-run single (4-3). The game then entered a 14-plus hour weather delay with the bases loaded and two outs once it became apparent that the conditions were no longer safe and would not improve.
Nasland started Sunday’s resumption with a bang, forcing a huge swinging strikeout with the bags full of California runners at 4-3 after the top of the fifth.
Karley Wester tried to start the Notre Dame rally with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, ripping a double to the wall in straightaway center. California quelled the surge with a solid play on the infield to leave the Irish runner stranded.
California extended the lead to two runs with a solo home run to lead off the top of the seventh, pushing its lead to 5-3. A harmless single later in the inning was erased by three putouts for the Notre Dame infield.
The Irish battled to the final out in the bottom half. Singles for Katie Marino and Sara White brought the winning Notre Dame run to the plate with one out. Karley Wester uncorked a laser of a line drive back to the circle that was inexplicably dropped by the California pitcher. The misplay worked in the Golden Bears favor, as the lead Notre Dame runners were retired at both bases after retreating to avoid the very double play that ended the game and Irish season.