JACKSONVILLE, Fla. It was a day of momentum swings for the University of Notre Dame softball team to open the Jacksonville University Tournament, with the Irish earning two wins Saturday at the Debbie and Fred Pruitt Softball Complex. Notre Dame scrapped to a 6-3 victory in game one against #23 Louisville before closing out host Jacksonville 9-1 in five innings.
The Irish earned the spirited comeback win in the day’s opening game against the Cardinals, erasing a 3-1 deficit entering the bottom of the fourth inning to score five unanswered runs. Freshman outfielder Karley Wester tied the game with a sharp single back up the middle, scoring senior captain Chloe Saganowich and junior Jenna Simon with one out. Junior third baseman Katey Haus broke the game open two pitches later, ripping a two-run double to right field that put Notre Dame in front for good 5-3.
“I was just thinking, easy up the middle get the ball through,” Haus said after the morning win. “Just keep it simple.”
Not wavering from a level-headed mentally during the key situation, Haus delivered what was not only the game-winning hit, but made a play that completely changed the dynamic of the game for both teams in the favor of the Irish.
“I don’t try to think about (the situation), because if I do I will overthink it,” she said. “I just don’t overthink it too much, sometimes I even sing a song in my head. Just to keep it simple.”
The win over a top 25 opponent to begin the tournament was a feather in the cap for Notre Dame (5-1), but was merely the first step of the weekend. Before the turnaround to the nightcap against Jacksonville, it was time for the Irish to reset to a clear mindset.
It was all Notre Dame from the outset of the nightcap against the Dolphins, as the Irish rushed out to a 6-0 lead after three innings. Sophomore Allie Rhodes nearly threw her second consecutive no-hitter, allowing one hit in five innings of Notre Dame’s 9-1 over Jacksonville.
Senior Laura Winter chipped in two RBI as the designated player in game two, with junior All-American Emilee Koerner and Wester each contributing a pair of runs batted in.
Notre Dame is set to close play at the Jacksonville University Tournament Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (ET) against #23 Louisville. Live stats from the game will be available at UND.com
For the latest news and updates on all things Notre Dame softball, follow the Irish @NDsoftball and @NDcoachGumpf on Twitter, and Like the team at Facebook.com/NDSoftball.
Game One – Notre Dame 6, #23 Louisville 3
Louisville (4-3) picked up its first hit of the ballgame in the top of the first inning on a Whitney Arion single up the middle. Notre Dame starter Laura Winter got out of the inning by inducing Brittany Duncan to ground into a 3-6-4 double play to end the Cardinals half.
A fielder’s choice allowed Karley Wester to reach base in the bottom of the first, and the Irish left fielder moved into scoring position after stealing second. An infield ground ball off the bat of Katey Haus advanced Wester to third base. Junior Cassidy Whidden delivered an infield single to the left side of the Louisville alignment, pushing the Notre Dame run across for a 1-0 lead.
Taner Fowler evened the score in the top of second frame, crushing a solo home run over the left field fence to square the contest at 1-1. Winter forced Kayla Soles to fly out to Lauren Stuhr in right field to close the Cardinal half.
The Irish loaded the bases in the bottom of the third inning, but an infield groundout and a strikeout forced by Louisville starter Caralisa Connell (2-2) kept Notre Dame off the scoreboard.
Duncan put the Cardinals ahead in the top of the fourth, drilling a solo home run to straightaway center field (2-1). Fowler then added to the surge with her second shot of the game, taking the ball deep and gone to left field to extend the Louisville cushion to 3-1.
Wester made the most of a bases loaded opportunity with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, shooting a single up the box to score Chloe Saganowich and Jenna Simon, chasing Connell and tying the game at 3-3. Haus then roped a hard-hit double over the head of right fielder Hannah Kiyohara, clearing the bases to put the Irish in front 5-3.
Freshman Rachel Nasland took over for Winter in the circle in the top of the fifth, and the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs after Duncan drew a four-pitch walk. Nasland battled, forcing Katie Keller to ground out to Haus unassisted at third base to end the Louisville ups in the half inning.
Wester came up with the bases loaded once more in the bottom of the fifth and worked a full-count walk against Maryssa Becker to score pinch runner Carly Piccinich from third base and make it 6-3 Notre Dame. Louisville turned to Rachel LeCoq out of the bullpen, and the Cardinals righty retired the next two Irish hitters in order to escape the jam.
Nasland worked a 1-2-3 top of the sixth inning, grounding Maggie Ruckenbrod out to short, Fowler out to third and Soles out to shortstop to shut down the Cardinals in their half of the frame.
Kelsi Jones crushed a one-out Nasland offering deep to center field, but All-American Emilee Koerner reached over the fence to snag the ball and rob the Cardinals of a home run. Arion grounded out to first baseman Micaela Arizmendi unassisted to end the game and give Nasland her first career save.
Game Two – Notre Dame 9, Jacksonville 1 (five innings)
After issuing a walk to Jacksonville leadoff hitter Victoria Brown, Irish starter Allie Rhodes (3-0) retired the rest of the Dolphin (4-4) order on strikes. Rhodes rung up Codi Kelly, Karson Tuck and Emily Sanchez swinging to end the Jacksonville top of the first.
Karley Wester lined a one-out single up the middle in the bottom of the first inning, and took second base on a steal. A throwing error by Jacksonville catcher Brooke Smith allowed Wester to move further into scoring position at third base. Designated player Laura Winter made the most of the RBI opportunity, grooving a single on the dirt through the left side off Jacksonville starter Taylor Rossman (0-2) to plate Wester and make it 1-0 in favor of Notre Dame.
The Irish threatened again in the bottom of the second, as a leadoff double off the bat of sophomore Megan Sorlie and a single from classmate Casey Africano gave Notre Dame runners on the corners with nobody out. An infield single on slap single for Jenna Simon scored Sorlie and upped the Irish advantage to 2-0.
A fielding error on a hard hit ball from Emilee Koerner brought Africano across from third base (3-0). Wester grooved a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Simon to tag from third to extend the Notre Dame cushion to 4-0. Winter added her second RBI single through the left side, bringing
Koerner home to keep the inning rolling (5-0). Dolphin reliever Brown hit freshman Kimmy Sullivan to load the bases, and Sorlie delivered with an RBI single to score Katey Haus and make it 6-0.
Rhodes allowed a pair of walks consecutively in the top of the third inning, with Jackie DiPiazza and Brown each receiving a free pass. An unassisted groundout to Sullivan at first base was the second Jacksonville out of inning but moved both runners into scoring position. A groundout to shortstop by Tuck ended the Dolphin threat.
Notre Dame added a run in the bottom of the third, as an infield single from Wester scored Simon from third base (7-0). Brown rung up Haus on a called third strike to end the Irish surge.
After two walks in the top of the fourth inning, Sorlie laid out to make a diving catch in right field, robbing Lexie Ballard of a base hit. An infield single one batter later scored Cecile Gomez from third and brought Jacksonville within six at 7-1.
A Jacksonville error in the bottom of the fifth scored captain Chloe Saganowich, who led off the inning with a double, from second base (8-1). An RBI groundout from Koerner scored Carly Piccinich from third base to end the contest.