March 22, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It was a strong offensive performance that carried the University of Notre Dame softball team to a pair of wins against Georgia Tech to open its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series with the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. The Irish went the manufacturing route in the series finale Sunday, scratching out four runs by way of non-hit sequences. Combined with a strong one-hit shutout from rising sophomore Rachel Nasland, Notre Dame completed the three-game series sweep with a 5-0 win over Georgia Tech on a brisk afternoon at Melissa Cook Stadium.
No. RV Notre Dame (19-11, 4-5 ACC) capped its first conference sweep of the season with the Sunday victory, and its third three-game league sweep at Melissa Cook Stadium since joining the ACC in 2014. The Irish outhit Georgia Tech (11-19, 4-8 ACC) by an impressive 26-9 margin for the weekend, scoring the final 22 runs unanswered during the set (24-1 for the series). Dating back to a 12-0 win in five innings at No. 9/10 Florida State on March 15, Notre Dame has outscored conference opponents 36-1 in its past four ACC starts.
“I thought the girls did a great job of attacking good pitches, and our pitching staff did a great job controlling their hitters,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Rachel saw some of those hitters seven times between the two games, and they didn’t get any better off of her. That’s a good sign that she’s doing something really, really well.”
The winner in games one and three of the series was Nasland (10-6), who punctuated her second stellar conference weekend in a row during the first ACC series of the year at Melissa Cook Stadium. Nasland allowed only three runners to reach base in the Sunday shutout, striking out 10 Georgia Tech hitters on 104 pitches. Over her last 19 ACC innings the Irish right-hander has yielded a single run, which came on a Georgia Tech sacrifice fly in the fourth inning of game one on Saturday, on five hits, walking five with 16 strikeouts.
“I think (the sweep) is great momentum for us because I feel like we are getting over the hump,” Nasland said. “Now we’re going to continue going up from here. It gives our team a lot of confidence going into next weekend (against Virginia Tech) as well.”
Balancing out the strong pitching was an aggressive Notre Dame offense led at the top by sophomore All-American Karley Wester. Wester paced all Notre Dame players with five hits during the series, batting .556 with a double, three RBI and four runs scored. Wester and senior co-captain Jenna Simon each went a perfect 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts, logging six of Notre Dame’s eight swiped bags over the weekend.
“Our pitchers have been working very hard to keep the ball in the park, and it’s made a difference,” Wester said. “They’ve been doing really well, and our lineup right now is looking like last year when we were the best hitting team in the nation. It feels good.”
Notre Dame broke through for its first run in the bottom of the second inning, which opened with junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi drawing a four-pitch walk against Georgia Tech starter Kylie Kleinschmidt (3-12). Pinch runner Carly Piccinich advanced to second base on a Kleinschmidt wild pitch, and senior Cassidy Whidden was plunked by a pitch to put a pair of runners on with nobody out. Freshman Morgan Reed continued her clutch situational hitting in her rookie campaign with a sharp RBI double into the left field gap, scoring Piccinich to vault the Irish in front 1-0.
Nasland remained perfect through her first three innings in the circle, striking out four Georgia Tech hitters during that span. A punch-out of Kelsey Chisholm looking and foul outs to senior third baseman Katey Haus by Caitlyn Coffey and Maddie Lionberger held the Yellow Jackets at bay through three frames.
The Irish began tacking on insurance runs to help the cause in the bottom of the third inning. Simon opened with a leadoff walk before flying into second base with her 14th stolen base of the season. Wester followed with an infield single that moved Simon to third. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner then drove a Kleinschmidt pitch on the screws out to right field, allowing Simon to score on the sacrifice fly (2-0).
Two more strikeouts highlighted the top of the fourth for Nasland, as she rung up Samantha Pierannunzi and Katie Johnsky swinging to remain perfect after four full innings.
Junior Megan Sorlie reached on a crafty slap single to open the Notre Dame fourth inning, and a Simon hit by pitch shifted Sorlie to second base. A Wester ground out moved both runners into scoring position, where a four-pitch walk to Koerner loaded the bases with two outs. A Kleinschmidt delivery to Haus got away from the catcher Coffey, and the wild pitch scored Sorlie and gave Notre Dame a 3-0 edge.
Georgia Tech finally mustered its first base runner of the game against Nasland in the top of the fifth inning, when Courtney Ziese earned a full-count walk after seeing eight pitches. The runner would not last, as a strong throw from the catcher Whidden to Reed at second base gunned down pinch runner Chelsie Thomas attempting to steal. Colleen Darragh followed with the only Georgia Tech hit of the day, an infield single to the 5-6 hole that Reed was able to stop on the dirt, but Chisholm ended the Yellow Jacket ups with a fly out to right field.
“We’re putting a lot of confidence in each other, we’re coming out strong in the beginning and it carries over throughout the entire game,” Nasland said. “That’s really big, coming out strong from the start, and coming out strong when we score runs. It’s really important on the defensive side to make sure that we keep them off base to keep that momentum for the rest of the game.”
Notre Dame would add a run in the bottom of the fifth inning after Whidden forced a wide throw home while at third base to score on a Georgia Tech error (4-0). Wester capped the day’s scoring in the bottom of the sixth after singling up the middle, stealing second base, moving to third on a wild pitch and finally scoring on a passed ball to up the Irish lead to 5-0.
Nasland retired six of the last seven hitters she faced, only issuing a second free pass to Ziese during the seventh inning. Karly Fullem fouled out near the visitor’s dugout with two outs in the top of the seventh, and Arizmendi made a great catch to snag the ball in front of the screen to complete the Notre Dame sweep.
“I spoke with (Rachel) a little bit and said, `I’m really proud of you because you’re making the hitters do different things every time,'” Gumpf said. “They don’t know how to sit on her, they don’t know what to expect, because she’s moving the ball around so much. That’s the key to her success right now.”
Notre Dame remains home to host IPFW on Wednesday at 5 p.m. (ET) in a nonconference midweek tilt at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish then welcome No. RV/25 Virginia Tech for a three-game ACC series beginning on March 28.
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, Media Relations Assistant