Wester reaches milestone as Notre Dame sweeps Virginia Tech
Benjamin Padanilam | Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Notre Dame found success both on the mound and at the plate over the weekend, sweeping Virginia Tech in its first ACC home series of the season.
In order to avoid the forecasted rain for the weekend, the Irish (16-13, 4-5 ACC) and Hokies (13-16, 3-9) played a doubleheader Friday and a third game Saturday to cap their weekends, with the Irish winning all three games by scores of 6-1, 9-1 and 9-4, respectively.
The closest game was the series’ last, as Notre Dame and Virginia Tech traded runs throughout the early frames. The Irish jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but the Hokies stormed back in the top half of the second to take a 3-2 lead following a run-scoring triple and two-run home run off Irish senior pitcher Rachel Nasland.
However, the Irish would score two runs in both the third and fourth innings and another three in the sixth inning to bring their lead to 9-3. Nasland would do her part the rest of the way, retiring 14 straight before allowing one final run in the seventh inning on her way to a complete game, closing out Notre Dame’s 9-4 win.
“She did a nice job settling in,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said of Nasland. “She went four innings in a row three up, three down. That’s not an easy task, and after that second inning, I think she settled in really nicely. … She’s throwing a very mature ballgame. She’s using her strengths; she made adjustments where they needed to be made and she did a nice job, and her experience really paid off today.”
The complete game was Nasland’s second of the weekend, as she pitched the Irish to a 6-1 victory in the opening game of Friday’s doubleheader. Irish junior pitcher Katie Beriont also went the distance in the day’s second game, pitching all five innings in Notre Dame’s 9-1, mercy-rule victory over the Hokies. Gumpf said she was very pleased with the duo’s pitching performances over the weekend.
“It shows where they’re at when they’re throwing complete games, especially against a team like Virginia Tech, who has such good hitting,” Gumpf said. “It’s not easy to do, and I think that they’ve done a nice job of settling in and knowing their strengths.”
But Irish pitching was not the only thing Notre Dame saw settle in over the weekend; Notre Dame’s bats came alive as well, as the team piled up 36 hits over the three wins and en route to its 24 runs.
“The one thing that we knew we needed to get going was our bats,” Gumpf said. “ … When you ask our team what our biggest strength is, they’ll say our hitting, and so it was good to see us start relying on that and to make that our game again.”
And four of those 36 hits came off the bat of Irish senior outfielder Karley Wester in Friday night’s 9-1 win. The first of those hits — which came in the first inning — carried the most weight, as it was her 285th career base hit at Notre Dame, pushing her atop the program’s all-time leaderboard.
“That was great,” Gumpf said. “She’s just been the girl we go to for four years, and it’s no surprise that she broke the record because she’s on the base all the time, and she’s led the way for us. So I’m so happy for her and I’m so proud of her, and I love her leadership.”
The weekend sweep gave the Irish its fourth consecutive victory, a turnaround from its three straight losses to No. 1 Florida State last weekend and two losses in a three-game set with Georgia Tech on March 11 and 12. As the Irish prepare for a midweek game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday before another road trip to Louisville, Kentucky, Gumpf said she was happy to see her team bounce back from a difficult spring break trip.
“The spring break [trip] was a tough trip for a lot of reasons, and being on the road for 10 days is never easy,” Gumpf said. “You just try to find some consistency somewhere in the game and some confidence, and I think that’s what we found this week.”
First pitch between the Irish and Eagles on Wednesday is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.