Notre Dame gets three wins to open season
Benjamin Padanilam | Tuesday, February 16, 2016
No. 24 Notre Dame competed in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, to open its season this past weekend and finished with a record of 3-2.
The Irish (3-2) began their tournament on Friday with a doubleheader, battling No. 23 Utah in the afternoon before taking on No. 18 Kentucky in the evening.
In their first game, the Irish and the Utes (3-3) struggled to get things going offensively. Senior pitcher Allie Rhodes pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but only received one run of support as the game went into extra innings. Junior pitcher Rachel Nasland entered the game in the top of the eighth and pitched a scoreless inning, and senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi drove in freshman utility player Ali Wester in the bottom of the inning to give the Irish a 2-1 victory.
In the nightcap, the Irish found themselves in battle of high-powered offenses with the Wildcats (5-1). Arizmendi knocked in three runs while freshman pitcher Caitlyn Brooks had three hits, including a home run, and four RBIs for the Irish. However, the Wildcats were able to get to Brooks and sophomore pitchers Katie Beriont and Sara White for 10 runs and hand the Irish their first loss of the season, 10-7.
On day two of the tournament, the Irish once again split their doubleheader, knocking off BYU, 4-2, in the afternoon before falling to No. 21 California in the evening, 8-7.
Against the Cougars (3-2), Nasland pitched four-plus innings of no-hit ball in relief of Brooks, forcing the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Arizmendi hit a game-winning, two-run home run to give the Irish the 4-2 victory.
In the evening, however, the Irish fell to the Bears (4-1) in another offensive battle, 8-7. Freshman infielder Melissa Rochford hit her first career home run and drove in three runs, but Rhodes struggled in her second start of the season, as she allowed eight runs, seven earned, in six-plus innings.
On the last day of the Kajikawa Classic, the Irish battled Georgia State. The offense had its best game of the weekend, as Arizmendi, Rochford and junior outfielder Karley Wester each had three hits, powering the Irish to a 10-4 win over the Panthers (0-5).
Following the weekend’s action, Irish associate coach Kris Ganeff said the coaching staff was pleased with the team’s offensive performance after shuffling the lineup several times.
“We’re still at that point where we are trying to create evidence like who’s going to get it done for us, so we have to switch people in and out of the lineup,” Ganeff said. “We’re trying new combinations, so we’re looking at it as a process.
“We want to continue putting up runs. We were doing a really good job of that this weekend. … I like where our bats are at and, traditionally, that’s usually a little bit slower to start, so considering the level of competition we were playing, that was something we want to continue to do. That’s our strength here at Notre Dame softball.”
Regarding the pitching staff, though, Ganeff said the weekend showed the importance of developing depth in the circle. Despite some inconsistency, the staff as a whole showed enough to warrant continuing pitching everyone down the road, Ganeff said.
“We definitely know at this point in the season that we’re definitely a pitch-by-committee [staff],” Ganeff said. “We have got to use them all. We have five pitchers, and we’re going to need them. It’s a long season; you don’t want lineups to get too many looks at them. You don’t want their pitch counts to get too high this early in the season. That’s not something you traditionally look at in softball, but we’re trying to [in order] to maximize [their] longevity.”
In addition to working with and stretching out their pitchers, Ganeff said the team also needs to sharpen its defense and prevent its opponents from having a big inning.
“We want to see our defense continue to make big plays when we need it,” Ganeff said. “There were a few times where we were let down on that, so that’s something that we need to focus in on.”
The Irish will next take the field Friday when they travel to Cathedral City, California, to compete in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.