Notre Dame heads to Atlanta for ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, February 17, 2017
Notre Dame returns from a series of California road games to compete in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Irish (3-2) will take on the No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers and the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines, facing each team twice over the course of the weekend.
The Irish opened the season at the Beach Kickoff Tournament in Long Beach, California, posting a 3-1 record by winning three games against Weber State, South Dakota, and San Diego State.
Against Weber State, Irish junior pitcher Katie Beriont carried the team through the first half of the game, striking out three batters and throwing no walks in the first four innings. A hit by junior infielder Sara White in the bottom of the seventh inning scored the first Irish run. After Weber State intentionally walked senior captain Karley Wester to load the bases, a wild pitch allowed freshman Chelsea Purcell to secure the 2-1 Notre Dame win.
Notre Dame’s only loss of the weekend came at the hands of Long Beach State, who hosted tournament. With both teams scoreless after three innings, sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks opened the fourth with an RBI single to score junior infielder Morgan Reed and give the Irish a 1-0 lead. The 49ers turned on their offense in the fifth inning, taking a 2-1 lead via sacrifice flies. The brief Long Beach State lead ended when Reed hit an RBI in the sixth inning to tie the game at 2-2, sending the game into extra innings. Sophomore MK Bonamy connected on an RBI double to give the Irish the 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, but Long Beach State ultimately closed the game with a walk-off double, resulting in a 4-3 Irish loss.
In the games against South Dakota State and San Diego State, Brooks made several key plays on offense to help secure the wins. Notre Dame also relied on Reed and sophomore second baseman Ali Wester. Sophomore infielder Melissa Rochford hit a home run in a season-opening tournament for the second straight year, helping the Irish reach the win against San Diego State.
The Irish has succeeded in securing a .500 or better record in each year’s opening tournament for five consecutive seasons. Following the Beach Kickoff Tournament, Notre Dame travelled to No. 8 UCLA on Sunday where it suffered an 8-0 loss to the Bruins. The Irish entered the game with a two-game winning streak against UCLA, but the Bruins proved to strong for Notre Dame. UCLA came out strong with four runs in the fourth inning, dominating the Irish early on. They added two runs in the last frame to win 8-0 in five innings.
Notre Dame will try to bounce back against Minnesota and Michigan after dropping from its spot at No. 22 in the rankings following opening-weekend play. In this weekend’s games the Irish offense will continue to rely on Karley Wester, who is the current NCAA leader in hits.
Michigan (3-2) enters the weekend with with its only losses coming at the hands of ranked teams in No. 3 Florida and No. 20 South Florida. Both losses came on Feb. 11. The Golden Gophers are undefeated so far this season.
Notre Dame continues its season Friday at 2:30 p.m. against Minnesota. The Irish then face Michigan at 10 a.m. and Minnesota at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday before closing the weekend with a final matchup against Michigan at 10 a.m. on Sunday.