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ND Softball

Irish drop two of three at Tar Heels, set to start homestand against Blue Demons

| Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No. 19 Notre Dame entered the weekend with a nine-game winning streak, but the Irish left Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with one win in three games against North Carolina.

Notre Dame (35-8, 10-5 ACC) began its weekend series against the Tar Heels (26-22, 10-11) with a doubleheader Sunday.

In the first game, North Carolina struck first with junior starting pitcher Kendra Lynch driving a three-run home run to right field. In addition to the home run, Lynch pitched a complete game, giving up four runs and picking up her 21st win of the season.

With a three-run deficit, the Irish battled back in the top of the second inning. Senior right fielder Megan Sorlie knocked an RBI single to right field to score sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed. Later in the inning, junior center fielder Karley Wester drove in Sorlie and sophomore left fielder Bailey Bigler to tie the game at 3-3.

North Carolina won the day, however, and took a 5-3 lead off sophomore second baseman Taylor Wike’s two-run double in the bottom of the second. Lynch added an RBI single to her day in the fifth inning to seal the victory for the Tar Heels by a final score of 7-4.

The second game of the day yielded a vastly different outcome, however, as Notre Dame’s offense exploded for 12 runs in a victory, 12-2.

Notre Dame’s stat line was highlighted by senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi. The Huntington Beach, California, native tallied three hits in three at-bats and scored two runs, including a solo home run and a two-RBI double. Seven Irish batters recorded a hit in the game and freshman designated player Caitlyn Brooks matched Arizmendi’s three RBIs with a three-run home run in the first inning.

Irish freshman designated player Caitlyn Brooks takes a leadoff during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win against Eastern Michigan on March 22. Brooks hit a three-run home run this weekend against North Carolina.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman designated player Caitlyn Brooks takes a leadoff during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win against Eastern Michigan on March 22. Brooks hit a three-run home run this weekend against North Carolina.

Junior right-hander Rachel Nasland picked up her 13th win on the mound in the blowout, giving up only two earned runs and three hits in a complete-game effort. By contrast, Tar Heel senior left-hander Lauren Fuller pitched all five innings but gave up 12 earned runs on 10 hits and seven walks.

With the series tied at one game apiece, Nasland took the mound again for the Irish in Monday night’s matchup. She kept North Carolina scoreless through two innings, but the Tar Heels got to her in the bottom of the third when freshman third baseman Berlynne Delamora blasted a three-run home run to give North Carolina a 4-2 lead after three innings. The Tar Heels then extended their lead in the fourth frame by adding two more runs in a two-out rally.

The Irish did not go away quietly, however. In the top of the fifth inning, Notre Dame tied the game, 6-6, after a grand slam by Arizmendi, who finished the series with eight RBIs and five hits. Scoring runs on the Arizmendi grand slam were Wester, who reached base on a Tar Heel throwing error, freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford, who walked, and senior infielder Carly Piccinich, who pinch ran for Brooks.

Irish senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi swings at a pitch during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win over Eastern Michigan on March 22.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi swings at a pitch during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win over Eastern Michigan on March 22. Arizmendi had eight RBIs over the weekend against North Carolina.

Despite the comeback, Notre Dame came up short. In the seventh and final inning, Tar Heel senior shortstop Kristen Brown hit a sacrifice fly off sophomore pitcher Katie Beriont to score senior center fielder Aquilla Mateen from third base, as the Tar Heels took the game, 7-6.

After the conference road series, the Irish begin a seven-game homestand with a matchup against DePaul on Wednesday night at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Blue Demons (21-23, 11-3 Big East) have lost three of their last five games, but had a 12-game winning streak from the end of March to the middle of April prior to their current stretch.

Offensively, junior first baseman Dylan Christensen leads DePaul with a .417 average and 13 doubles. The Blue Demons also sport three hitters with eight or more home runs on the season — senior pitcher Morgan Maize, senior catcher Naomi Tellez and junior first baseman Nicole Pihl.

Maize is also the Blue Demons’ go-to pitcher, with a 3.72 ERA in 176 2/3 innings pitched on the season. The senior’s 149 strikeouts rank 53rd in the country.

Notre Dame will take on DePaul on Wednesday starting at 4 p.m.

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