March 23, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Even though the final hits column did not read in its favor, North Carolina manufactured a key five-run third inning to defeat the University of Notre Dame softball team by a 7-4 final on Friday night at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Aided by a Notre Dame (19-9, 4-2 ACC) fielding error in the top of the third, North Carolina (15-15, 5-2 ACC) brought home four unearned runs in the frame to cap a comeback after starting the night in a 2-0 hole. The Irish ultimately battled back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, and had the tying run waiting on deck in the seventh inning after quelling the Tar Heel surge.
Cait Brooks enjoyed a stellar night for the Irish at the plate and in the field, reaching safely twice and posting two RBI by way of a first-inning sacrifice fly and solo home run in the bottom of the sixth stanza. Brooks added a sensational four innings of no-hit relief in the circle out of the Notre Dame bullpen, walking two and striking out three North Carolina batters. Abby Sweet and MK Bonamy chipped in RBI doubles for the Irish offensive cause.
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How It Happened
Notre Dame starter Alexis Holloway (13-5) struck out the North Carolina side in the top of the first. Looking strikeouts and a swinging K for the Tar Heels left one runner aboard.
Back-to-back doubles for Ali Wester and Abby Sweet in the bottom of the first inning rocketed Notre Dame out of the gate, with Sweet’s RBI two-bagger scoring Wester for the 1-0 lead. Cait Brooks laced a sacrifice fly to right field two batters later to bring home Sweet for the 2-0 Irish edge.
A two-run double tied the game for North Carolina in the top of the second inning, and the Tar Heels ultimately loaded the bases with nobody out. Consecutive force outs at home and a strikeout looking got Holloway out of the jam.
A pair of two-run doubles, keyed by a Notre Dame fielding error and a 50-50 obstruction at the plate that should have ended the inning, sparked the five-run surge for North Carolina in the third to take a 7-2 lead. Brooks entered in relief in the top of the fourth and yielded only two official base runners the remainder of the game.
Brooks helped her own cause with a deep solo home run to left center in the bottom of the sixth, easily clearing the fence with one out. Brooks’ fifth home run of the season trimmed the deficit to 7-3. A North Carolina throwing error and an MK Bonamy RBI double to right brought Katie Marino around to further cut the climb to 7-4.
Following another shutout inning for Brooks, Alexis Bazos led off the bottom of the seventh with an infield single to third base to get the Notre Dame rally started. Two hard-hit balls to the outfield and a grounder to second left the Irish runner stranded.
The Irish and Tar Heels play game two of the three-game conference series on Saturday at 3 p.m. (ET) live on ACC Network Extra at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball, men’s soccer and swimming and diving programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.