March 28, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Timely offensive execution was all the University of Notre Dame softball team needed to make its mark on the scoreboard during Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series opening game with No. 24 Virginia Tech. Key hits and heads-up baserunning secured both Irish runs on the day, while another stellar defensive effort powered the Irish to a 2-0 win over the Hokies at Melissa Cook Stadium.
No. RV Notre Dame (21-11, 5-5 ACC) extended its current winning streak to seven games, dating back to a 12-0 win in five innings over No. 9/10 Florida State on March 15. It was Notre Dame’s sixth win over a top 25 opponent this season, including its second shutout of a ranked foe in conference play. The Irish have surrendered only one earned run in their last 31 ACC innings pitched, a sacrifice fly by Georgia Tech during the conference opener last Saturday at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Sophomore Rachel Nasland (11-6) got off to a fast start in the top of the first inning against the Virginia Tech (24-7, 3-6 ACC) lineup. Breanna Davenport struck out looking, Lauren Gaskill popped up to senior Katey Haus at third base and Kylie McGoldrick grounded out to Haus one batter later to turn the Hokies aside.
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester worked a full-count walk against Virginia Tech starter Kelly Heinz (8-1) to begin the Notre Dame ups in the bottom of the first. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner moved Wester into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but an Irish fly out and strikeout stranded Wester at second base.
Virginia Tech’s Katey Smith and Kelsey Mericka got the Hokies in motion with a pair of infield singles to open the top of the second inning. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Nasland struck out Vanessa Gonzalez looking and Elizabeth Birle swinging to escape the jam.
Senior co-captain Jenna Simon logged the first Notre Dame hit of the game in the bottom of the third inning, lacing an infield single to the left side off Heinz. Simon moved into scoring position with a clean steal of second, and a Wester RBI single found its way to the left center gap to plate Simon and give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
A one-out Smith single was the only damage against Nasland in the top of the fourth, as consecutive great plays at shortstop by freshman Sara White turned Virginia Tech away in its half of the frame.
Senior Cassidy Whidden and freshman Morgan Reed posted one-out singles for the Notre Dame attack in the bottom of the fourth inning. White then clubbed a single through the left side, and following a lengthy rundown Whidden was able to beat a throw home from left field to up the Irish advantage to 2-0.
It was a 1-2-3 inning for Nasland and the Notre Dame defense in the top of the fifth. Gonzalez flew out to left field, Birle struck out swinging and Bailey Liddle flew out to left field to retire the side in order.
Nasland completed the shutout with a pair of scoreless innings against Virginia Tech in the top of the sixth and seventh stanzas. Gonzalez worked a one-out walk in the top of the seventh, and moved into scoring position at second after a wild pitch. That was as far as the Hokie runner would advance, as Nasland struck out pinch hitter Jessie Mehr and Liddle swinging for the final outs of the ballgame.
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