April 1, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — In what was a knock-down, drag-out affair through five and a half innings, the University of Notre Dame softball team entered the bottom of the sixth frame on Wednesday in search of a spark. Senior catcher Cassidy Whidden provided an energy overload, crushing a three-run, walk-off home run to left center field to cap a six-run Notre Dame inning, guiding the Irish to a 10-2 win in six innings over Eastern Michigan at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The No. RV Irish (24-11) won their 10th consecutive game, pushing their record at Melissa Cook Stadium to a perfect 9-0 in 2015. Notre Dame has won 16 straight games at home dating back to a 7-2 decision against Valparaiso on April 24, 2014.
Notre Dame ended the contest with a 13-7 hits edge over Eastern Michigan (8-19), adding a pair of extra base hits and two stolen bases. The Irish have outscored opponents by a stunning 82-9 margin during their 10-game winning streak.
Junior Allie Rhodes (10-4) retired the Eastern Michigan lineup in order during the top half of the first inning. Myranda Barnes struck out swinging, Jenn Lucas grounded out to second base and Michelle Kriegshauser grounded out to third base to end the Eagles frame.
Sophomore All-American Karley Wester laced a sharp single up the middle off Eastern Michigan starter Trisha Trujillo (2-5) in the bottom of the first inning to add another leadoff hit to her season total. After Wester moved into scoring position with a steal of second base, senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Wester to third. Senior Katey Haus dropped an RBI single into center field as the next batter, scoring Wester to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
It was a second straight 1-2-3 inning for Rhodes and the Irish defense in the top of the second. Abi Clark flew out to Wester in left field, Katy Wyman struck out swinging and Taylor Wagner grounded out to shortstop for the frame’s final out.
Senior co-captain Jenna Simon laid down a solid infield single to third base with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. A Simon steal set the stage for Wester, who singled to left field to plate Simon and extend the Notre Dame advantage to 2-0.
Eastern Michigan finally broke through against Notre Dame in the top of the fourth, thanks to a solo home run from Lucas off the scoreboard in left to trim the deficit to 2-1. Following a Kriegshauser double to left center, Rhodes responded by flying out Clark to left field and popping Wyman out to shortstop to maintain the Irish lead.
Rhodes tossed an efficient 4.1 innings, allowing one earned run on five hits. The Notre Dame southpaw yielded only one walk and struck out four Eastern Michigan hitters to win her fifth straight decision.
A walk issued to freshman Sara White and an infield single by junior Megan Sorlie kicked off the Notre Dame bottom of the fourth inning. A Simon ground out moved both runners into scoring position, where a Wester RBI ground ball to the right slide plated White to extend the Irish cushion back to two runs at 3-1.
Freshman Katie Beriont entered in relief in a bases loaded jam with only one out in the top of the fifth, and responded brilliantly to the adversity. Pinch hitter Aoife Duffy struck out swinging and Lucas grounded back out to Beriont in the circle to prevent any Eastern Michigan runners from scoring.
Whidden laced a two-out RBI single to center field off Trujillo in the bottom of the fifth inning, plating freshman Morgan Reed from second base to up the Notre Dame lead to 4-1.
Eastern Michigan kept clawing back into the game in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back singles from Kriegshauser and Clark to open the frame. A sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout scored Kriegshauser from third base to trim the Eagles deficit to 4-2.
Notre Dame swiftly ended the contest in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sorlie was hit by the final pitch Trujillo threw on the day, giving way to reliever Alyssa Huntley. Simon knocked a single back to the pitcher to move Sorlie to second, and a Wester hit by pitch loaded the bases with nobody out. Koerner took care of the RBI chance with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Sorlie to put the Irish in front 5-2.
Haus followed Koerner with a stinging double into the right center field gap, clearing the bases on the two-RBI hit to make it 7-2 Notre Dame. Reed earned a four-pitch free pass two batters later to set the stage for Whidden, who smashed the only pitch of the game from Eastern Michigan reliever Abbie Minsker deep and gone off the stadium scoreboard in left center to end the game on a three-run, walk-off home run.
Haus paced all players with a perfect 3-for-3 performance at the plate, drawing a walk and chipping in three RBI and a run scored. Wester, Reed, Simon and Whidden each contributed two hits, with Whidden tying a career-high with four RBI.
Notre Dame resumes Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play this weekend against Pittsburgh at Vartabedian Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Live video from Friday’s doubleheader and Saturday’s single game will be available via ESPN3.
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.