March 18, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team provided the necessary offensive spark in its 2015 debut at Melissa Cook Stadium, but it was defense that ultimately sealed the game in the final inning. A pair of great plays in the field helped stem a Cleveland State rally in the seventh inning, leading the Irish to an 8-4 victory over the Vikings on Wednesday night.
No. RV Notre Dame (16-11) won its sixth home opener in the seven full seasons the Irish have played at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to 2009. Notre Dame outhit Cleveland State by an 11-9 margin, tying a season-high with five extra base hits (four doubles and one home run), and are now 14-2 (.875) this season when finishing ahead in the hit column. The Irish also added the game’s only stolen base.
Cleveland State (12-8) took an early 1-0 lead that was kick started by leadoff hitter Nena Doran reaching on a full-count walk in the top of the first. A sacrifice bunt moved Doran into scoring position at second. Cynthia Woodard followed with an RBI single to the gap in right center field, plating Doran to put the Vikings on the board. Sophomore pitcher Rachel Nasland (8-6) shut down the Cleveland State lineup the rest of the inning, striking out Erica McNew swinging and popping Alyson Broschk out to the circle.
It took Notre Dame little time to answer in the bottom of the first inning against Cleveland State starter Susan Knight (5-3). Sophomore All-American Karley Wester reached on an infield single to third base before stealing second cleanly with senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner at the plate. After a Koerner ground out moved Wester to third, senior Katey Haus drove Wester home with an RBI double to the right field gap, tying the contest at 1-1. Junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi followed with a single up the middle, scoring Haus to give the Irish a 2-1 advantage.
Nasland retired the side on strikes in the top of the second inning. Katelind Phillips, Mackenzie Joecken and Hannah Yoe each went down swinging against the Irish right-hander to shut Cleveland State out during its ups.
It was more of the same from Nasland and the Notre Dame defense in the top of the third frame. Sydney Morgan struck out swinging, Doran popped up to second base and Knight fouled out behind the plate.
Cleveland State placed a pair of runners on base with one out in the top of the fourth inning, but Nasland remained undeterred. A Phillips fly out to center and a Joecken strikeout stranded both Viking base runners.
A Wester double to left center with one out against Cleveland State reliever Alex Radjen started the Notre Dame bottom of the fifth inning. Koerner followed with a double of her own off the right field wall, scoring Wester and upping the Notre Dame cushion to 3-1. Arizmendi added a two-out RBI single to right center two batters later, plating Koerner from third base (4-1).
Cleveland State prolonged the inning with a fielding error that brought the fifth Irish run across the plate (5-1). Freshman Bailey Bigler delivered on the good fortune later in the frame, grooving a two-run pinch-hit single into center to open up a 7-1 Notre Dame lead.
The Vikings began chipping away at Notre Dame’s advantage in the top of the sixth inning, as Woodard and McNew went deep for back-to-back solo home runs that closed the Cleveland State deficit to 7-3. Junior Allie Rhodes worked around a walk and a single to strike out Broschk and Morgan for the final outs of the inning.
Nasland earned her second straight victory after throwing five innings of four-hit softball, walking two and striking out nine Cleveland State batters. Rhodes tossed the final two full innings, surrendering one run on five hits while adding two walks and two strikeouts.
Notre Dame tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, as Haus sent a 2-2 pitch from Cleveland State’s Kristin Catalano deep and gone over the fence in right center field. Haus’ team-high seventh home run of the year made it 8-3 Irish. Arizmendi followed with a two-out double to right field, but was stranded on the base paths before any further Notre Dame runs could score.
Arizmendi led all Notre Dame players with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate, contributing two RBI while scoring one run. Haus and Wester each chipped in two hits and two runs scored on the day.
Cleveland State attempted to mount a rally in the top of the seventh inning after a single by Doran and a double to right by Knight put two Vikings on with no outs. A Woodard ground out to shortstop scored Doran (8-4), but Knight was doubled off trying to take third on a heads-up play from Arizmendi to senior co-captain Jenna Simon to Haus for a huge second out.
Following a Cleveland State hit and subsequent walk, Phillips laced a single through the left side that looked like it might score a run, but Koerner threw a strike to Haus at third base to nab the trailing Sydney Choe and end the game before lead runner Emma Nicholas could cross the plate.
Notre Dame hosts Georgia Tech in a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. A live broadcast stream of the series is expected to be available via WatchND.
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.