March 24, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Maintaining the momentum from another hot start, this time the University of Notre Dame softball team put together a complete offensive performance on Saturday against North Carolina. The Irish raced out with seven runs in the opening four frames, ending the night early on a Cait Brooks walk-off home run for a 9-1 victory in six innings against the Tar Heels at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Notre Dame (20-9, 5-2 ACC) scored two runs in the first inning, a run in each of the second and third stanzas, three runs in the fourth and the final two runs thanks to Brooks’ home run in the bottom of the sixth against North Carolina (15-16, 5-3 ACC). The Irish were beneficiaries of five Tar Heel errors on the afternoon, and scored two runs as a direct result of passed balls.
Melissa Rochford led all batters with two hits and three RBI on the day, scoring an addition run, while Morgan Reed crossed the plate three separate times in the contest. Brooks drove in two with her second home run of the weekend and scored twice, reaching safely in three of her four plate appearances.
Katie Beriont (7-4) kept her stellar pitching in the circle rolling with six strong innings against North Carolina. Beriont, who no-hit the Tar Heels in her last appearance against North Carolina in April of 2017, allowed one run on six hits over six innings, walking two and striking out six in the complete-game triumph.
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How It Happened
Notre Dame starter Katie Beriont worked around two North Carolina singles in the top of the first inning to keep the Tar Heels off the scoreboard. Two strikeouts and a fly ball out to center did the job for Beriont.
For the second straight day, Notre Dame brought two runs across in the bottom of the first inning. Abby Sweet sliced a double to right center and then headed home after Morgan Reed clocked an RBI double of her own to the opposite gap, pushing the Irish in front 1-0. Melissa Rochford followed with an RBI chopper through the left side to plate Reed for the 2-0 Notre Dame lead.
North Carolina pushed a runner as far as third base in the top of the second but was unable to bring her home. An obstruction call against the runner heading home on an attempted squeeze bunt, which prevented Rochford from making a play on the ball down the line at third, ended the Tar Heel ups.
Notre Dame kept the offense rolling with an insurance run in the home half of the second inning. Ali Wester slapped a two-out single up the middle, Sweet was hit by a pitch and Reed walked to load the bases. A passed ball by North Carolina skirted to the backstop and scored Wester for the 3-0 Irish lead.
Following a shutout frame for Beriont in the top of the third inning, Notre Dame continued to add to its edge in the bottom of the third. Rochford and Katie Marino both reached base by way of North Carolina errors, with Rochford cruising all the way into third base on the sequence. MK Bonamy did her job and pushed Rochford over the plate with an RBI grounder to second, extending the Irish advantage to 4-0.
North Carolina managed its only run of the game by way of a Notre Dame wild pitch in the top of the fourth inning, cutting the margin to 4-1. Beriont remained undeterred and forced a fly ball out to the gap in right center, which Sweet expertly hauled in on the run to end the rally.
A three-spot for the Irish in the bottom of the fourth inning pushed the lead to six runs. Alexis Bazos led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, reached third on a passed ball and then scored on a passed ball to make it 5-1 Notre Dame. With Reed aboard following an error and Cait Brooks standing at first after a walk, Rochford deposited a two-run double to right center to clear the bags and end the frame with the Irish out front 7-1.
The Notre Dame defense needed four outs in the top of the fifth after a North Carolina batter reached on a passed ball following a swinging strikeout. Two ground ball outs and a swinging K for Beriont turned the Tar Heels aside once more.
Thanks to another scoreless half for Beriont and the Notre Dame defense in the top of the sixth inning, the Irish finished the game in the bottom of the sixth. Reed reached by way of a one-out fielding error to set the table for Brooks. The Irish designated player crushed a two-run home run deep and gone down the left field line for her sixth home run of the season, and second of the series, to close the contest at 9-1.
The Irish and Tar Heels settle their three-game conference series on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET), live on ESPNU from Melissa Cook Stadium. Trey Bender and Erin Miller will have the call for the first nationally-televised softball game on the Notre Dame campus since the 2014 season.
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, men’s soccer and swimming and diving 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.