ND powers past UNC for doubleheader sweep
Evan Anderson | Thursday, April 10, 2014
No. 23 Notre Dame stormed to a series sweep of host North Carolina on Wednesday, its first sweep of the team’s inaugural ACC campaign.
“They hit inside pitches, outside pitches, made things happen the entire day, and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said of her team. “That is exactly where we want to be at this point in the season.”The main storyline in the first game of the doubleheader was senior pitcher Laura Winter, who hurled her way to her 98th career victory, which leaves her just two shy of becoming the first pitcher in program history to win 100 games. Winter (15-4) was at her sharpest Wednesday as she yielded a single hit, a second-inning single to the Tar Heels sophomore first baseman Jenna Kelly, in a one-hit gem. The senior CLASS Award finalist was extraordinarily efficient, needing just 80 pitches to strike out seven hitters while issuing no walks.
Winter was backed by three RBI from junior center fielder Emilee Koerner, who followed a first-inning sacrifice fly with a two-run home run in the fifth. The home run was her team-leading eighth of the season. Sophomore first baseman Micaela Arizmendi chipped in three doubles to tie a program single-game record. Junior catcher Cassidy Whidden joined in on the offensive outburst, going 2-3 in the afternoon game with a solo shot in the sixth inning, her fifth home run of the season.
The nightcap provided plenty more drama for the Irish (24-8, 5-3 ACC). Winter started again for the Irish but the Tar Heels (21-18, 12-7 ACC) were finally able to gain some traction against her to the tune of solo home runs in each of the first two innings by sophomore shortstop Kristen Brown and junior catcher Amber Parrish, respectively. Whidden answered in the top of the third inning with another solo shot of her own, but Parrish smashed a two-run home run, her second of the night, over the wall in center field as North Carolina took a 4-1 lead.
The Irish battled back, but North Carolina’s response was swift. Notre Dame pieced together three runs in the top of the fifth inning to knot the score at four, as RBI singles by senior shortstop Chloe Saganowich and freshman leftfielder Karley Wester sandwiched a sacrifice fly by sophomore rightfielder Casey Africano. But in the bottom half of the inning, Tar Heels sophomore second baseman Erin Satterfield doubled and scored on an RBI groundout before Kristen Brown launched her second home run of the night.
But the Irish owned the final two innings.
“That second game was really tough because we got in a hole,” Gumpf said. “I was really proud of the way our offense came out and just wouldn’t quit.”
A Micaela Arizmendi RBI single brought the Irish within a single run in the sixth inning before Cassidy Whidden smashed her second home run of the game and third of the day to give Notre Dame its first lead at 7-6.
“Cassidy hit three home runs on three different pitches: in, out, and change,” Gumpf said. “That says how well she is seeing the ball, and she’s worked hard to put herself in a good place up to bat.”
The Irish would add four insurance runs in the final frame to tally an 11-6 victory, the fourth time they have scored at least that many runs in the past six games. That six-game stretch coincides with Karley Wester’s move to the top of the lineup. The freshman is leading the Irish with a .413 batting average.
“When I see a bunch of pitches, and [junior second baseman] Jenna Simon sees a bunch of pitches, and [Koerner] sees a bunch of pitches, it lets the whole team know what’s going to happen next,” Wester said.
Gumpf said that the freshman’s success has been infectious for her team.
“The way Wester plays, she lights a fire under us,” Gumpf said. “The team responds very well to her fire.”
The Irish are back in action this weekend with a pair of Sunday home games at Melissa Cook Stadium against No. 7 Florida State.