Notre Dame holds off Valparaiso for another win
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, April 21, 2016
In the second game in as many nights, No. 18 Notre Dame handled a nonconference opponent as the Irish defeated Valparaiso 7-3.
For the Irish, (34-6, 9-3 ACC) the victory over the Crusaders (9-27, 4-9 Horizon League) marks the 13th win against teams from Indiana in the last 14 games and is the team’s 35th victory over the Crusaders.
Keeping with a theme for Notre Dame’s offense, the Irish jumped on senior Crusaders right-handed starter Sierra Pico. Freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford singled in the first inning before freshman designated player Caitlyn Brooks launched a home run that landed well over the fence and hit the back netting, scoring Rochford and putting the Irish ahead 2-0.
To leadoff the second inning, senior second baseman Carly Piccinich singled and advanced to second base on a ground out. The next batter, freshman left fielder Ali Wester, added to the Irish lead with an RBI double that was almost hauled in by junior Crusaders center fielder Taylor Lawson.
The Irish weren’t done, however. With Wester on second, Rochford was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, and Brooks walked to load the bases for senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi. The Huntington Beach, California native walked to score Wester, and sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed singled to score Rochford and Brooks before Arizmendi was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with the Irish up 5-0.
“We just did a great job putting bat on ball,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We were hitting the crud out of the ball. I just love the girls were attacking.”
Behind a fast start, junior Irish starter Rachel Nasland put together a three-run performance, going six innings and giving up five hits. Gumpf said she was the most impressed how Nasland closed out the game after surrendering two home runs.
“Rachel isn’t catching many breaks when she’s not hitting her spots right now,” Gumpf said. “Right now, she missed a couple spots and she paid for it. Sometime the game is like that, it tests you and it challenges you and you just have to step up and keep attacking it. I think she came back and did a great job after the second home run. She came back and really shut the door. I loved the way she finished.”
The first rough spot for the junior came in the top of the fourth inning when the Crusaders worked runners on first and second with no outs. A fielder’s choice gave the Irish an out with runners on the corners and a ground ball to Rochford led to the second out of the inning.
Nasland escaped the inning, striking out Valparaiso sophomore first baseman Brenna Boyle and stranding three runners.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, junior center fielder Karley Wester singled to lead off and stole second — her 32nd steal of the year which ties a Notre Dame record for most steals in a season. Ali Wester advanced her sister to third on a fielder’s choice, and Rochford delivered with a line-drive single back up the middle to score Karley Wester and put the Irish up 6-0.
Later in the inning with Rochford still on base, Arizmendi added to the Irish lead by driving a ball deep to right field that scored Rochford and sent Arizmendi to third for a triple.
Valparaiso ruined Nasland’s shutout in the top of the fifth as sophomore shortstop Stephanie Moreno led off the inning with a solo home run to centerfield to put Valparaiso on the board 7-1. It was Moreno’s third home run of the year.
In the top of the sixth, the Crusaders added to their lead as Boyle snuck a two-run home run to right field to make it a 7-3 ball game.
The Irish went three-up,three-down in both the fifth and sixth innings, and sophomore pitcher Katie Beriont came in to close out the game for Nasland.
The Colts Neck, New Jersey native retired all three Crusader batters to give Notre Dame its 34th win of the season.
The Irish are in action next against North Carolina with a three-game weekend series that kicks off Saturday at 3:30 p.m.