March 24, 2017 by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Despite falling behind on the scoreboard in both games of Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader with Virginia Tech, the University of Notre Dame softball team showcased its 2017 motto to perfection. The team of fighters countered the blow with six unanswered runs in the opener and nine unanswered tallies in the nightcap to sweep the Hokies 6-1 and 9-1 in five innings on a beautiful March night at Melissa Cook Stadium.
How It Happened
Notre Dame (15-13, 3-5 ACC) starter Rachel Nasland battled around a one-out walk in the top of the first inning to force a popout to third base and a flyout to left field.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Caitlyn Brooks delivered the first hit of the ballgame with a double to right center. A popout to shortstop left one Notre Dame runner aboard.
Nasland spun a 1-2-3 inning against the Virginia Tech (13-15, 3-8 ACC) order in the top of the second. Two flyouts and a swinging strikeout kept the Hokies off the board.
Notre Dame nearly struck first in bottom of the third inning. Sara White led off with a double, moving to third base on a Madison Heide single to center. Three straight outs left both runners stranded on the basepaths.
Virginia Tech took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. A leadoff double off the wall in center started the rally, and a two-out double down the line in left put the Hokies ahead 1-0. Nasland answered immediately with a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
Virginia Tech’s lead would be brief, as Notre Dame surged ahead in the bottom of the fourth. Melissa Rochford started the rally with a one-out double to center field with one out, but was ultimately retired at the plate trying to stretch out an extra base on a Katie Marino single. The second out mattered not, as Kimmy Sullivan blasted the first pitch she saw in the inning into the bleachers in left field. Sullivan’s second home run of the season gave Notre Dame a 2-1 advantage.
Two straight shutout innings followed for Nasland in the fifth and sixth frames. A 1-2-3 effort in the top half of the sixth kept the Notre Dame lead intact.
The Irish offense exploded for four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to push the lead out of reach. Rochford began the scoring with a two-run home run over the bushes in center field. Rochford’s second home run of the year made it 4-1 Notre Dame. Building off a Sullivan single through the left side, White drove her first home run of the season over the wall in left to cap the Irish offensive at 6-1.
A pinch-hit double for Virginia Tech to lead off the top of the seventh inning was not enough to slow Nasland’s momentum. Consecutive groundouts to Morgan Reed at shortstop took game one for Notre Dame.
Virginia Tech opened quickly with a run in the top of the first inning. A one-out walk and stolen base set the stage for an RBI single to right center that gave the Hokies a 1-0 lead. Notre Dame starter Katie Beriont worked around a single to the left side of the infield by forcing a groundout to second base for the third out.
Notre Dame answered with the tying run in the bottom of the first frame. Ali Wester reached by way of a chopped single through the left side, and ended up in scoring position following a two-out passed ball. Morgan Reed bounced an RBI single of her own over the head of the Virginia Tech third baseman to score Wester and square the game at 1-1.
Beriont danced out of danger in the top of the second after loading the bases following a two-out walk. A groundout to Reed at shortstop left the bases full of Hokies.
Notre Dame took its first lead of the nightcap in the bottom of the second inning. Kimmy Sullivan opened the inning with a double down the left field line, ultimately scoring on a Maddie McCracken RBI single through the 5-6 hole to make it 2-1 Irish. Karley Wester continued the sequence with an RBI base knock through the middle that plated Sara White for the 3-1 Notre Dame cushion.
Beriont strung together an impressive 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third, tempting the Virginia Tech order into three straight groundouts to the left side of the infield to hold the visitors. It was more in the same in the top of the fourth, as two Virginia Tech runners were left on after Reed made an incredible leaping grab at shortstop to steal a sure Hokie run.
Notre Dame took control of the game in the bottom of the fourth stanza. White opened the hitting with a single to left center, and moved to third base following a hit by pitch for Maddie McCracken and a Karley Wester infield single. Ali Wester bounced a high chopper to second base that allowed all runners to advance, scoring White with the RBI for the 4-1 Notre Dame lead. RBI singles for Caitlyn Brooks and Melissa Rochford, a sacrifice fly for Reed and a fielder’s choice RBI for Katie Marino made the score 8-1 in favor of the Irish.
Not letting up the pressure, Notre Dame secured the run-rule victory in the bottom of the fifth. Singles for McCracken and Karley Wester loaded the bases with nobody out, but two straight fielder’s choices to the left side put the winning run out at home. With Reed at the dish and the bags full, a Virginia Tech wild pitch brought Wester across for the winning tally.
Notre Dame increased its active winning streak against Virginia Tech to 11 games, and has outscored the Hokies 72-26 in those contests … In outscoring Virginia Tech 15-2 in Friday’s doubleheader sweep, the Irish batted .460 as a team with seven extra-base hits and 14 RBI … Melissa Rochford reached in five of her six plate appearances against the Hokies, adding a home run and driving in a team-high three runs. Sara White and Kimmy Sullivan each chipped in a home run and two RBI on the day … In Friday’s nightcap, Karley Wester became the all-time Notre Dame softball hits leader by notching her 285th career base hit in the first inning against the Hokies as part of a 4-for-4 game two (her fourth career four-hit game at Notre Dame) with two runs scored — Wester, already the Irish softball career runs leader, also became the eighth Notre Dame baseball/softball player to score 200 or more career runs by touching the plate during the fourth inning of game two … Rachel Nasland and Katie Beriont combined for a 1.17 tandem ERA on the mound in Friday’s sweep, limiting Virginia Tech hitters to a .200 batting average against.
The Irish will attempt to close their series with Virginia Tech on Saturday at 3 p.m. (ET). Inclement weather is expected in the greater South Bend area throughout the weekend, and fans are being asked to stay tuned to all Notre Dame softball media channels for the latest updates on the status of game three.
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.