JACKSONVILLE, Fla. In the game of softball, there is not much that will counter a fast start. The University of Notre Dame softball team scored seven runs in the very first inning, leading wire-to-wire in an 11-4 win over #23 Louisville Sunday on the final day of the JU Tournament at the Debbie and Fred Pruitt Softball Complex.
The Irish (6-1) earned their fifth straight win, and evened the all-time series against Louisville at 14-14 with a weekend sweep of the Cardinals. Notre Dame outscored the opposition 26-8 in the three-game tournament, outhitting Louisville and Jacksonville a combined 39-14.
“Our expectations for this weekend, coming in, was going off what we learned last weekend at Auburn,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We really focused on doing the little things really well and playing together as a team, focusing on making things happen.”
It took junior All-American Emilee Koerner only two pitches to solve Louisville starter Rachel LeCoq (2-2), stroking a 1-1 pitch deep and gone to left center field for her second leadoff home run of the season and a 1-0 Notre Dame lead. Junior Katey Haus kept it rolling two batters later, roping a one-out double over the head of Morgan Neyer, and was ultimately brought home on a Laura Winter RBI double to left center field (2-0). A pair of singles from junior Cassidy Whidden and sophomore Megan Sorlie scored Winter from third base and made it 3-0 Irish. A first pitch double down the left field line by sophomore Micaela Arizmendi scored Whidden and chased LeCoq at 4-0.
An RBI single from senior captain Chloe Saganowich and an infield RBI one-bagger from junior Jenna Simon upped the Irish advantage to 6-0. Koerner capped the frame’s scoring with an RBI double over the head of Kelsi Jones in center field, scoring Saganowich for the seventh Notre Dame run of the half inning.
“The one thing I like about this team right now is that we are playing together really well,” Gumpf said. “We’re feeding off each other, picking each other up, and we’re having great at-bats. We’re really playing together as a team, and that shows a lot of character.”
In her first career start in the circle, freshman Rachel Nasland walked a pair of runners in the bottom of the opening frame, but retired Louisville (4-5) on three groundball outs to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard.
Louisville tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning, as Jones delivered an RBI single and Whitney Arion brought home two runs on a bases clearing double to bring the Cardinals within four runs (7-3). Winter (3-1) moved from designated player to the circle, and forced Brittany Duncan to fly out to freshman Karley Wester in left field, ending the surge.
Saganowich opened the top of the third inning with a double down the line in left field off Louisville reliever Caralisa Connell, and was moved to third base on a sacrifice by Simon. Koerner worked a five-pitch walk to give Notre Dame runners on the corners with one out. Wester located a slap perfectly to the left side, reaching on the infield single to score Saganowich and increase the Irish lead to 8-3.
The Cardinals kept chipping away in the bottom of the third inning, as an RBI single from Taner Fowler closed the margin to 8-4. Consecutive pop outs to shortstop and to Winter in the circle ended the frame.
A double down the left field line by Whidden led off the Notre Dame fourth, setting the stage for a two-run home run over the right field fence by Arizmendi (10-4).
“(For the weekend) we had quite a few impact players,” Gumpf said. “Emi Koerner was huge, Karley Wester had a great weekend. Megan Sorlie and Micaela Arizmendi each had a great weekend. We had some kids really show up and do some damage out there. The great thing was that I could go on about how good the players performed because they really all stepped up when they needed to.
“I like the way our lineup is playing, they are feeding off each other,” she added. “And our pitching staff, they hung in there and worked hard. We faced some great hitters this weekend, and I’m proud of them.”
Two runners reached four Louisville in the home half of the fourth inning, but Winter coaxed Fowler into a deep fly out to Koerner in center to end the threat.
Winter logged the first 1-2-3 defensive half for Notre Dame in the bottom of the fifth, retiring Maggie Ruckenbrod, Kayla Soles and Brittany Sims in order.
Winter won her third straight decision, allowing one run in 5.1 innings, striking out three Louisville batters.
The Cardinals made a major run to load the bases with two away in the bottom of the sixth inning, but a Fowler groundout to Saganowich at shortstop stranded three big Louisville runners on the base paths.
Notre Dame tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh, kick started by a one-out Saganowich single. Wester did the damage three batters later, lacing an RBI single up the middle to score pinch runner Carly Piccinich, pushing the Irish advantage to 11-4.
Saganowich led all Notre Dame players with three hits on the day, and added an RBI and two runs scored. Arizmendi posted a team-high three RBI, while Koerner and Wester each chipped in two runs batted in.
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