CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.--- A total of 15 Virginia batters came to the plate in game one of Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader between the Cavaliers and the University of Notre Dame softball team at The Park.
Notre Dame senior pitcher Laura Winter made history the only way she can after four stellar seasons with the Irish, tossing her first career perfect game to lead No. 21/22 Notre Dame to an 8-0 win in five innings in the series lid lifter. The Irish added a 12-1 win in five frames during the nightcap to claim the conference series.
The day one sweep officially clinched Notre Dame’s (28-9, 8-4 ACC) third ACC series in its inaugural season in the conference, and the Irish have now won five of their last six league contests overall. Notre Dame, the league leader with a .350 team batting average, has scored double-digit runs nine times in 2014, adding double-digit hit efforts in an additional 19 games.
“Today’s games were two really good wins for our program,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Anytime you win a series against another ACC team it’s good for your program. I take nothing for granted with Virginia, they have come back and beaten a number of good teams, they are not afraid of coming back. They fight and claw their way back, they are a good hitting team.”
Winter (17-4) struck out nine Virginia (6-37, 1-21 ACC) batters in five full innings of work, hurling only 51 pitches in the complete game effort. It was the 100th victory of her Notre Dame career, leaving Winter standing alone as the first pitcher in program history to surpass the century mark.
“Being backed up in the field obviously helped,” Winter said. “A perfect game is a complete team effort. Everything was working, and it was nice to have a go-to pitch every time. If a hitter was on a rise-ball, I was going to throw something else. It was nice to have a backup just in case.”
Winter’s perfect game was also just the third in the 26-year history of Notre Dame softball, and the first since Heather Booth struck out four Rutgers hitters in a 8-0 win in five innings on April 23, 2006. Terri Kobata (six innings, 11 strikeouts) was the first perfect Irish pitcher after blanking Loyola-Chicago 5-0 on May 12, 1994 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament.
“How cool is that for (Laura)? Every single pitch was good,” Gumpf said. “She had one miss on the day, and she acknowledged it immediately. She was in the zone, and when you’re in the zone things are clicking. When things are clicking they go well.”
“It’s really awesome, especially with this group of girls, it really makes a difference,” Winter said. “I’m really glad that they could experience it as well.”
The Notre Dame ace excelled at the plate during the twin bill as well, as Winter batted .600 (3-for-5) with a double, a home run and a team-high six RBI. Sophomore Micaela Arizmendi added a pair of doubles, a home run and three RBI, while freshman Karley Wester contributed a triple and three RBI. Arizmendi and juniors Katey Haus and Jenna Simon paced Notre Dame with three runs each.
“When we get off to an early start, it gives our pitching, our defense, a little time to take a breath,” Gumpf said. “That changes everything. It made today a lot better.
“It has been hard to make a lineup, because we have so many good hitters coming up,” Gumpf added. “Lauren (Stuhr) has been seeing the ball well, Casey (Africano) has been seeing the ball well, Megan (Sorlie) has been seeing the ball well, and when those three see the ball, anything can happen. It just changes our lineup dramatically.”
Notre Dame and Virginia will close the weekend set on Saturday with the final game of the series scheduled to begin at noon (ET) at The Park. The Irish will look for their second league sweep of the ACC season.
“I think the team understands how crucial every ACC game is because we have had seven taken away due to weather,” Gumpf said. “When you have seven games taken away from you every game after is so crucial, and they get that. We are working so hard to win.”