April 7, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — A whirlwind week for University of Notre Dame senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner finally culminated on the softball diamond at Melissa Cook Stadium Tuesday night. Selected in the fourth round of the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) College Draft while assuming the Notre Dame all-time lead in total bases last week was a great first act, but Koerner had one more career milestone to chase down.
Koerner became Notre Dame softball’s all-time leading scorer by crossing home plate for the 167th time in her career, coming around on a freshman Morgan Reed walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning to send the Irish to a 10-2 run-rule victory over Western Michigan.
No. RV Notre Dame (28-11) ran its current winning streak to an impeccable 14 games, extending its record at Melissa Cook Stadium to an even 10-0 in 2015. The Irish have outscored opponents a combined 122-18 during their current 14-game winning surge, taking six of those wins in six innings or less by way of the NCAA run rule.
Notre Dame finished the day with a 15-4 hits edge against Western Michigan (12-17), adding five extra base hits and four stolen bases to the offensive box score. The Irish have now surpassed the 10-hit plateau in eight of their last 10 games overall, and are a perfect 16-0 this season when logging double-digit hit totals.
Sophomore Rachel Nasland (15-6) posted a 1-2-3 top of the first inning against the Western Michigan order to open the game. Ivy Schaaf grounded out to third base before Taylor Sanicki and Jenny Rohn struck out swinging to end the Broncos half.
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester began the Notre Dame ups in the bottom of the first inning with a slap infield single to shortstop against Western Michigan starter Erin Binkowski (5-7). Koerner then crushed an RBI double to center field, bringing Wester all the way home from first to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. After junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi worked a full-count walk with one out, senior Cassidy Whidden cleared the bags with a three-run home run to center that caromed off the glove of the center fielder Rohn and over the fence. Whidden’s ninth homer of the season gave the Irish a 4-0 advantage.
Nasland retired the side once more in the top of the second. Melissa Palmer grounded out unassisted to Arizmendi at first base, Kelsea Cichocki flew out to left field and Binkowski struck out swinging.
The Notre Dame defense kept up the pressure again in the Western Michigan third inning. Gabby Schefka, Marlee Wilson and Sabrina Gamboa all went down on swinging strikes to turn away the Broncos lineup and post another zero for Nasland on the scoreboard.
Western Michigan clawed back into the contest in the top of the fourth inning, as Cichocki drove a two-out double to left field to score a pair of runs and trim the Broncos deficit to 4-2. Nasland bounced back with a swinging strikeout of Binkowski to strand the runner at second base.
The Irish loaded the bases with one out against Western Michigan reliever Anissa Sanchez in the bottom of the fourth and made the offensive count. Freshman Sara White and junior Megan Sorlie each singled against Binkowski, and senior co-captain Jenna Simon reached by way of a fielder’s choice to bring Wester up with the bags full of Irish runners. The Notre Dame left fielder came through in the RBI spot, dropping a single into right field off Sanchez to score White and make it 5-2 Irish. Koerner followed with a deep sacrifice fly to center that plated Sorlie (6-2).
After Reed doubled to left field and stole third base with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning against Sanchez, classmate White brought her home with a stinging RBI double that hugged the left field line, vaulting the Notre Dame lead to 7-2.
Nasland allowed a lone single to Palmer for the only damage done by the Western Michigan order in the top of the sixth frame. The Irish right-hander closed her outing by forcing Cichocki to fly out to Koerner in center field for the last out of the Bronco ups.
Nasland earned her ninth straight victory with a complete game four-hitter in the circle, with an additional Western Michigan batter reaching on a hit by pitch. Nasland struck out 10 Broncos batters on 93 pitches, 66 of which were officially logged as strikes.
Notre Dame put the contest away with three runs in the home half of the sixth inning. Simon laid down a crafty slap single to third base before taking second cleanly with her 20th steal of the season. A Wester single up the middle brought Simon in from second base to extend the Notre Dame cushion to 8-2.
Koerner followed with a sharp single of her own through the 3-4 hole one batter later, scoring the speedy Wester from second base (9-2). Arizmendi added a single to center field two batters later, and pinch runner Carly Piccinich claimed second with a stolen base.
Whidden hung tough against Western Michigan reliever Allyson Kus to claim a full-count hit by pitch to load the bases with one out. It took Reed two pitches to lace the game-winning RBI single to left field, scoring Koerner and capping the Notre Dame scoring at 10-2.
Wester and Reed led all hitters with matching 3-for-4 days at the plate for Notre Dame, with Wester adding two RBI, a pair of runs scored and a stolen base while Reed also stole one base and scored a run. White and Koerner each chipped in two hits apiece, with Koerner driving in three and scoring twice to break the program’s all-time runs mark. Koerner surpassed fellow All-American and NPF draft pick Stephanie Brown (’07), who scored 166 career runs from 2004-07 at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame returns to action on Wednesday against Butler at 6 p.m. (ET) inside Melissa Cook Stadium. Live coverage will be available on WatchND.
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