March 27, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team returned to its winning ways on Tuesday in the first home nonconference game of 2018 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish hammered out nine hits, including four by leadoff batter Ali Wester, and rode a solid pitching performance from Katie Beriont to a 6-1 victory over Eastern Michigan.
Notre Dame (21-10) won for the 20th and final time in its series with Eastern Michigan (4-22), as Tuesday’s game was the last scheduled meeting between the teams before Eastern Michigan shutters its softball program at the end of the season. The Irish ultimately won the final 11 meetings between the clubs overall, and posted an 18-1 record all-time against the Eagles at home.
Wester led all players with a perfect 4-for-4 day atop the Notre Dame lineup, stealing one base and scoring one run. Katie Marino ripped two hits and drove in two runs while scoring twice, and Abby Sweet added a two-run triple to the Irish cause. Melissa Rochford scored two runs after reaching base on a pair of Eastern Michigan errors.
Beriont (8-4) spun six innings of two-hit softball, walking four and striking out five Eastern Michigan hitters. Morgan Ryan made her home Notre Dame debut after entering in relief in the top of the seventh and tossed a scoreless frame to finish out the game.
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How It Happened
After a leadoff walk to begin the game put an Eastern Michigan runner aboard in the top of the first inning, Notre Dame starter Katie Beriont settled in. Beriont got a swinging strikeout against the next batter, and catcher Maddie McCracken threw a dart to second base to retire the stealing baserunner on the play. A fly ball out to left field ended the Eagles half.
With a walk on the bases and two outs in the top of the second inning, Beriont went back to work. A backward K on a 1-2 offering left one Eastern Michigan runner on the pond.
Notre Dame broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. Katie Marino ripped an RBI double down the line at third to score Melissa Rochford from second base for the 1-0 Irish lead. Alexis Bazos brought Marino home later in the inning with an RBI single to right, pushing the lead to 2-0. After Ali Wester reached with her second single of the day, Abby Sweet cleared the bags with a two-run triple to the wall in right field that extended the lead to 4-0.
Following a scoreless top of the third for Beriont and the Notre Dame defense, the Irish tacked on insurance runs in the bottom of the third frame. With Rochford at first base, Marino sent an RBI triple to the wall in center to up the Notre Dame lead to 5-0. MK Bonamy did her part and drove Marino in one batter later, with the RBI inching the Irish edge to 6-0.
A leadoff double opened the top of the fourth for Eastern Michigan, the first hit for the Eagles on the day, but the Notre Dame defense responded in kind. Bazos made a spectacular diving catch down the line in right field, and was able to easily double off the runner at second base for a key double play. Beriont forced the next batter to pop out to Marino at second to erase the threat.
Eastern Michigan moved a runner into scoring position in the top of the fifth inning following a two-out walk and a wild pitch, but Beriont struck once more. The Irish southpaw froze the next batter on a 2-2 pitch to leave the Eagles with a runner stranded.
A single to right center and a Notre Dame error keyed the lone Eastern Michigan scoring sequence of the night, which was achieved by way of a sacrifice fly, to trim the deficit to 6-1 in the top of the sixth. Beriont picked up her final strikeout of the night by forcing the last batter she faced down swinging to maintain the five-run lead.
Morgan Ryan entered for her first career appearance at Melissa Cook Stadium in the top of the seventh and threw a scoreless stanza for Notre Dame. After fouling the first Eastern Michigan hitter of the inning out to first base, Ryan surrendered a hit by pitch to get the Eagles momentum rolling. Just one pitch later, a sharp ground ball to Marino at second base started the 4-6-3 double play with Morgan Reed and Bonamy to end the game.
Notre Dame hosts Purdue in midweek action at Melissa Cook Stadium, with Wednesday’s tilt versus the Boilermakers a 5 p.m. first pitch on ACC Network Extra.
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.