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ND Softball

Beriont tosses no-hitter and Nasland leads squad through nine innings as Irish take two from UNC

| Monday, April 10, 2017

An extra-inning thriller and a no-hitter from junior Katie Beriont helped the Irish on their way to a 2-1 series victory over ACC-rival North Carolina this weekend.

North Carolina (31-11, 10-5 ACC) started Game 1 of the double-header with a solo shot to give the Tar Heels a quick lead Saturday.

But it was the only run North Carolina would score all night.

Irish junior pitcher Katie Beriont throws a pitch during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Eastern Michigan on March 29.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish junior pitcher Katie Beriont throws a pitch during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Eastern Michigan on March 29.

Notre Dame (21-15, 8-7) answered back in the bottom of the inning as a single from sophomore first baseman Caitlyn Brooks plated sophomore left fielder Ali Wester.

From the first inning onward, pitching dominated the game. Freshman Tar Heels pitcher Brittany Pickett went eight innings and gave up just six hits along with four strikeouts. But Irish senior Rachel Nasland was better.

As the game dragged into extra innings, Nasland kept the Irish in it with seven strikeouts and only three walks — including a huge strikeout in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded.

And the Irish capitalized. Notre Dame hadn’t recorded a base runner since the fourth inning, but junior shortstop Morgan Reed hit a double to left field to open the ninth frame. Brooks singled to advance Reed and sophomore Melissa Rochford won the game for the Irish on a walk-off single to left field.

And while Nasland put on a strong performance in the day’s first game, Beriont somehow managed to top her in the second contest of the doubleheader with a no-hitter, the first of her career. The Colts Neck, New Jersey, native was only one walk away from a perfect game as well.

The Tar Heels pitching wasn’t slouching off either, and the game entered the bottom of the fourth inning scoreless. Notre Dame broke through in the bottom of the frame, however, as sophomore catcher Maddie McCracken and senior captain and center fielder Karley Wester picked up RBI singles.

With a 2-0 lead, Beriont had the cushion she needed and took the the Irish their second win of the series with a three-up, three-down seventh inning to pick up her seventh win of the season.

Notre Dame did not fare as well in the series’ final contest Sunday, however.

Nasland took the mound again for the Irish, but this time around, the Tar Heels jumped on her in the first inning with a two-run homer. Beriont entered the game in the fourth inning. An RBI single extended the North Carolina lead to 4-0 and then 6-0 by the bottom of the fifth inning.

The Irish tried to rally in the bottom of the inning as McCracken brought freshman second baseman Katie Marino home via an RBI single.

North Carolina added another run in the sixth to seemingly put the game out of reach. But Notre Dame wasn’t done offensively. Ali Wester started a second rally in the sixth with a single and a big error by the Tar Heels brought her, and Brooks across the plate to put the score at 7-3. Two doubles — one from Rochford and one from senior right fielder Kimmy Sullivan — made it 7-4.

A bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of seventh inning brought home Karley Wester, but Notre Dame fell just short offensively and lost 7-5.

The 2-1 series victory puts the Irish at fifth place in the conference, just three games back of the Tar Heels. Notre Dame was swept by No. 1 Florida State back in early March, but since then, the Irish have won ACC-series against Virginia Tech, Louisville and North Carolina. The Irish will have another shot at a top team in the ACC next weekend when they travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, to take on North Carolina State.

Before then, Notre Dame will play a non-conference tilt against Detroit-Mercy on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and IUPUI on Wednesday at Melissa Cook Stadium.

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