March 25, 2017
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Much as the recipe for success was in a day one doubleheader, the University of Notre Dame softball team returned to what it knows best during the finale of an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series with Virginia Tech. Aggression. The Irish scored seven unanswered runs on their way to a 9-4 win over the Hokies on Saturday to cap the conference three-game sweep at Melissa Cook Stadium.
How It Happened
Notre Dame (16-13, 4-5 ACC) raced out to an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Karley Wester slapped an infield single to shortstop, moving into scoring position on an Ali Wester soft slap single back to the circle. After the Westers tagged up on a foulout, Morgan Reed brought Karley Wester in with an RBI fielder’s choice to second base to make it 1-0 Irish. A Melissa Rochford RBI single as the next batter pushed the Notre Dame lead to 2-0.
Virginia Tech (13-16, 3-9 ACC) vaulted ahead 3-2 in the top of the second inning with a two-out RBI triple to right and a two-run home run to left field. Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland forced a fly ball out to center field to end the Hokies rally.
Notre Dame clawed back into the contest in the bottom of the third inning. A Virginia Tech throwing error and Katie Marino double to right center field set the table for Kimmy Sullivan. Sullivan grooved a two-run double down the left field line to clear the bags and lift the Irish back ahead 4-3.
The home team kept the offensive momentum rolling in the bottom of the fourth frame, adding two more runs. RBI singles for Reed and Marino inched the Notre Dame lead up to 6-3.
Nasland settled into a groove during the middle innings, retiring 14 straight Virginia Tech batters. As a result, the Irish right-hander and the Notre Dame defense logged three-up, three-down frames from the third through the sixth stanzas.
The Notre Dame offense pushed the game out of reach with insurance tallies in the bottom of the sixth. Rochford was hit by a pitch and Marino reached with a single through the left side, paving the way for Sullivan’s second two-run double of the afternoon to up the Irish advantage to 8-3. Sullivan ultimately scored thanks to a Sara White sacrifice fly to left field (9-3).
Virginia Tech added an RBI single with two outs in the top of the seventh inning to trim the deficit to 9-4, but Nasland forced a flyout to center field to complete the series sweep.
Notre Dame capped its first ACC sweep of 2017 by claiming all three games from Virginia Tech – The Irish have earned 13 ACC sweeps since joining the conference in 2014 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Notre Dame outscored Virginia Tech 24-6 during the set, closing with a 36-16 edge in hits and a 23-6 count in RBI ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Melissa Rochford led all Notre Dame players with a .600 batting average (.800 on-base percentage) against Virginia Tech, adding a home run, four RBI and two runs scored. Kimmy Sullivan hit at a .500 clip with three doubles, a home run, a team-high six RBI, and tied Ali Wester with a team-high four runs scored. Karley Wester and Sara White joined Ali Wester and Sullivan with a .500 batting average, and each scored three runs against the Hokies ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Notre Dame has won eight of its last 10 ACC games at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to a 5-4 victory over No. 9/8 Florida State on April 3, 2016.
The Irish close a five-game homestand with a midweek showdown against Eastern Michigan on March 29 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The 5 p.m. (ET) Wednesday contest will air live on ACC Network Extra.
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.