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ND Softball

Rhodes, Notre Dame shut out Bulldogs at home

| Friday, April 15, 2016

It was the Allie Rhodes show Thursday night as No. 20 Notre Dame shut out Butler, 5-0, at Melissa Cook Stadium.

The game was a pitching duel for much of the first three and a half innings, with the senior Rhodes and the Butler staff combining to allow just two total hits. The Irish (29-6, 6-3 ACC) lineup got going in the bottom of the third inning. During that frame, junior centerfielder Karley Wester scored a runner due to a fielding error by Butler. The next at-bat freshman left fielder Ali Wester plated another runner on a sacrifice fly to extend the Notre Dame lead to two.

The next inning, junior Kimmy Sullivan pinch hit with two runners on base and ripped a double into center field to score two Irish runners and extend the lead to 4-0. Later in the inning, Karley Wester legged out an infield single that scored a run to push the Irish lead to five.

Irish senior Allie Rhodes delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 5-0 victory over Butler on Thursday night at Melissa Cook Stadium.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish senior Allie Rhodes delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 5-0 victory over Butler on Thursday night at Melissa Cook Stadium.

The Butler bats couldn’t get anything going against Rhodes, who gave up only two hits in five innings pitched and struck out a total of 12 batters. Sophomore pitcher Katie Beriont entered the game in relief of Rhodes in the sixth inning and did not give up a single hit to preserve the shutout and the victory for the Irish.

Karley Wester finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI’s, Sullivan finished 1-for-1 with two key RBI’s, and both senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi and sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed finished 1-for-3 with a run scored. Senior second baseman Carly Piccinich finished the game 2-for-2 with a run scored, while freshman catcher Maddie McCracken scored two runs. Rhodes improved her record to 13-4 on the year after giving up only two hits and striking out 12 of the 16 batters she faced on 97 pitches.

After the game, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf had high praise for Sullivan, and labeled her pinch-hit double in the fourth the turning point in the game.

“We had two runners on base and she smoked the ball up the middle and I think that was the difference in the game,” Gumpf said. “I think that changed everything. All of a sudden [the game] went into our hands and we weren’t going to let up. The hardest thing to do in the game is to come in and pinch hit and pinch hit well and she’s probably one of the best in the country doing that, so I give her a lot of credit.”

Gumpf also spoke highly of Rhodes’s performance in the circle.

“I think our pitching did a great job,” Gumpf said. “Butler is a good hitting team and we did a great job against them. … When [Rhodes’] changeup is on, she’s so tough to hit because it makes all of her pitches better.”

Despite the victory, Gumpf expressed a desire for her batters to be more aggressive against opposing pitchers early in their at-bats.

“Attacking early in the count,” Gumpf said. “I asked the team [after the game] what they think we can do a little bit early in the game and they said attack early which is what I wanted them to say, and I told them that I was really proud of the way they played defense and I thought that Carly Piccinich had a great game, and Kimmy Sullivan had a great game, and the pitching staff had a great game.”

The Irish’s will be back in action this weekend when they travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take on conference opponent Virginia Tech in a three-game series that starts with a doubleheader Saturday. Gumpf said her team will have to be ready to face Virginia Tech’s tough pitchers and play a good team game overall.

“They’re a really good team, and they start really strong on the mound,” Gumpf said. “We’ve got to play good softball. If we play good softball we’re going to be fine.”

Gumpf said getting off to a good start and playing consistent throughout the game will be important for her squad all weekend.

“The key is consistency and attacking early,” Gumpf said. “We’ve got to keep their hitters in the park, we’ve got to attack early, and we’ve got to play consistent.”

The Irish and the Hokies (21-21, 10-5 ACC) are set to begin play Saturday at noon.

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