Irish extend winning streak to 17 games
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, March 16, 2016
No. 19 Notre Dame continued to roll over spring break, winning all nine contests to extend its winning streak to 17 games.
At the Florida Gulf Coast Spring Break Classic on March 5 and 6, the Irish (21-3, 3-0 ACC) tallied four wins for a weekend sweep. On the first day of the invitational, the Irish squeaked by Stony Brook, 4-3, before comfortably defeating Florida Gulf Coast, 6-1. In the game against the Seawolves (5-11), the Irish trailed for most of the game, but a three-run seventh inning helped Notre Dame stave off the upset attempt.
The next day, Notre Dame outscored its opponents by a combined score of 14-1 en route to a victory over Ball State and a second win against Stony Brook. Freshman second baseman Ali Wester had five hits and scored four runs on the day to lead the Irish. In addition to several other strong offensive performances, senior Allie Rhodes and junior Rachel Nasland turned in solid games on the mound. Rhodes pitched six shutout innings against the Seawolves and gave up only two hits, while Nasland tallied six strikeouts against the Cardinals (12-14) in six innings pitched.
Three days later, on March 9, the team traveled to Miami to take on Florida International in a pair of games. The Irish emerged victorious against the Panthers (17-10, 3-0 Conference USA) in the first game by a score of 17-8. Senior catcher Casey Africano led the Irish with four RBIs in the game, but the whole team was involved in the scoring as Wester added three RBIs and freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford drove in another four.
Notre Dame’s bats were not as active in the second game against Florida International, but the Irish rode Wester’s four-hit performance to a 6-3 win.
The Irish finished their road trip with a three-game series against Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. Notre Dame took the first game, 9-2, with a scoreline dominated by Rhodes’ seven-inning, one-run performance. With two wins over the Cavaliers (8-18, 0-3 ACC) this past weekend, Rhodes improved to 10-2 on the season.
The team built off its early momentum in the second game, as Rochford launched a two-run homer in the top of the first inning to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead from the get-go. The Cavaliers did not give up, and a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning brought Virginia to within one run at 4-3. The Irish put the game away in the seventh inning, however, with sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed knocking in senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi on an RBI double, as the Irish went on to win, 7-3.
Then on Sunday, the Irish closed out their series against the Cavaliers with a commanding 16-3 win. The 16-run output represented their second largest of the season and allowed the Irish to extend their winning streak to 17 games.
To complement Rhodes’ strong pitching over the break, Rochford was awarded ACC Player of the Week on Monday. During Notre Dame’s five wins over Florida International and Virginia, Rochford had at least one hit in each contest and boasted a batting average of .444 to go along with a team-high 10 RBIs.
Rochford and junior co-captain Karley Wester are the only Notre Dame players to have won the award as freshmen.
The Irish will put their winning streak on the line when they play their home opener against Bowling Green on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.