Feb. 18, 2017
by Tony Jones
RALEIGH, N.C. — The second day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge yielded a piece of University of Notre Dame softball history. Notre Dame scored four runs in the first two innings to defeat No. 11/10 Michigan 6-4 on Saturday at Dail Softball Stadium. The Irish ultimately fell in game two of the day 3-2 in eight innings against No. 13 Minnesota.
How It Happened
Notre Dame (4-4) flew out of the gates in the top of the first inning. Morgan Reed reached by way of an infield single to second base, and Melissa Rochford was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out against Michigan (4-3) starter Megan Betsa. Caitlyn Brooks waited on a 1-1 pitch and crushed a three-run home run deep and gone to left field. Brooks’ first home run of the season vaulted the Irish in front 3-0.
Brooks moved on from a leadoff single against in the bottom of the first to retire the Michigan side in the circle. Three straight ground ball outs got the Notre Dame starter out of the opening frame.
The Irish added an insurance run in the top of the second stanza. Madison Heide reached by way of a walk, and moved into scoring position after an Ali Wester infield single. A Michigan throwing error on a sharp hit off the bat of Rochford allowed Heide to score from second, pushing the Notre Dame lead to 4-0.
A Notre Dame error in the field and a double steal from Michigan placed a pair of Wolverines in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. A great play by Reed at shortstop threw out the speedy Abby Ramirez at first for the final out.
Michigan tacked on two runs during its ups in the bottom of the third after a two-run double into the right field corner trimmed the deficit to 4-2. The Wolverines added a run with an RBI single through the right side in the home half of the fourth that cut the gap to 4-3. A groundout back to Notre Dame reliever Katie Beriont ended the Michigan half.
Brooks came through with her second huge hit of the ballgame in the top of the fifth inning. Reed opened the surge with a one-out walk, taking second and third base by way of wild pitches. Brooks deposited a 2-1 Betsa pitch to straightaway center field for a two-run blast, her second of the day, to clear the bases for a 6-3 Notre Dame lead.
Michigan attempted one final rally trailing by three in the bottom of the seventh. Two singles and a throwing error on Notre Dame narrowed the gap to 6-4. With the winning run at the plate, Rachel Nasland forced a flyout to left field for her second save of the year.
Notre Dame opened the scoring during the top of the first inning against Minnesota (7-0) starter Tori Finucane. Melissa Rochford reached on a one-out fielder’s choice, and moved to third on a passed ball. Morgan Reed grooved a sacrifice fly to center one batter later to score Rochford and give the Irish a 1-0 advantage.
Notre Dame chipped in an insurance run in the top of the third inning. Ali Wester reached with a single to center, moving into scoring position on a fielder’s choice. Reed ripped a laser double down the line at third to score Wester and push Notre Dame in front 2-0.
Minnesota answered in the bottom of the fourth inning. A leadoff home run to left field trimmed the Notre Dame lead to 2-1. A Minnesota sacrifice fly to left field later in the inning squared the score at 2-2, but Chelsea Purcell robbed what looked to be a sure hit with two on and two out to end the inning deadlocked.
After both teams battled to the eighth inning tied at 2-2, Minnesota took the game in the bottom of the frame. A leadoff single and wild pitch moved the winning run to scoring position, where a single to center brought the final Golden Gopher run across.
Notre Dame earned its first win over Michigan since an NCAA Ann Arbor Regional elimination game on May 21, 1999 … Saturday’s triumph was just the second Irish victory against the Wolverines all-time on a neutral field (1995 Arizona State Classic) … Michigan has been ranked in the national top 15 in three of Notre Dame’s five wins in series history … Notre Dame now has 18 wins over ranked opponents since 2013, including nine wins over teams slotted in one of the national top 10 polls … Ali Wester logged five hits in eight at-bats and scored one run on Saturday, while Caitlyn Brooks notched a team-high five RBI … Brooks was the first Notre Dame player with a multi-home run game since Morgan Reed hit two big flies during the 2016 Strikeout Cancer series against Louisville (May 1, 2016).
The Irish close the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Michigan on Sunday at 10 a.m. (ET) at Dail Softball Stadium.
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.