Winter leads Irish to victory over Ball State
Evan Anderson | Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Backed by a season-high 18 hits from her offense, senior pitcher Laura Winter earned a program-record 97th win as Notre Dame knocked off Ball State, 11-4 on Tuesday.
Winter (14-3, 3-3 ACC) was incorrectly credited with the win in the last Irish victory after pitching a scoreless fifth inning to close out Eastern Michigan on March 26. That gave Winter the chance to earn the record by pitching wire to wire, an opportunity the CLASS Award winner said she appreciated.
Despite a strong wind blowing out from home plate that made defense difficult for both teams and brought the long ball into play, Winter kept the Cardinals (18-12) to just four runs. She also struck out 13 on the day without yielding a single walk.
“[Ball State] is a great hitting team,” Winter said. “We were lucky to keep them to four [runs].”
Winter pitched after finding out just last night where she would be continuing her playing career professionally. She was selected seventh overall by the Akron Racers at the National Fast Pitch Draft in Nashville, Tenn. last night, becoming the first Irish selection since Stephanie Brown was selected 11th in 2007.
Winter said it was exciting to be able to share those accomplishments with her teammates.
“It has really been awesome, [especially] all of the support from my teammates,” Winter said. “They have been encouraging me, helping me all the way.”
It was Winter’s night, but a new-look Irish offense stole the show early as Irish coach Deanna Gumpf debuted a new batting order to plenty of success. Freshman leftfielder Karley Wester, fresh off a career-high three steals against Eastern Michigan, batted in the leadoff slot. That allowed Gumpf to move junior centerfielder Emilee Koerner, the team’s leader in home runs and RBI, into the third spot.
“At the end of the day, Emilee Koerner is our best power hitter, leads us in extra-base hits, leads us in RBIs,” Gumpf said. “When Karley is on base, we tend to hit really well, and that has been the trend all year … I felt like, ‘why not?’”
Wester rewarded the vote of confidence by reaching base five times, going 4-4 with a walk, two steals and two runs scored. It was the first four-hit game of her career and fell just one short of the program record.
She was hardly alone. Juniors second baseman Jenna Simon, third baseman Katey Haus and catcher Cassidy Whidden as well as sophomore first baseman Micaela Arizmendi and senior shortstop Chloe Saganowich each recorded a multi-hit game.
“We had great run support,” Gumpf said.
The No. 23 Irish (21-7) jumped on Cardinal starter Nicole Steinbach (7-6) right away. In the first inning, four singles, two walks and an error plated four runs. RBI singles by Arizmendi and Saganowich tacked on two more in the third. In the sixth, Whidden smoked a line-drive home run off the bleachers in left field to score two more and bring the score to 9-1.
By the time Ball State got any traction against Winter, it was too late. Junior designated player Hanne Stuedemann hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, and sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna and senior leftfielder Jennifer Gilbert hit another solo shot and a two-run home run in the sixth, respectively. But the veteran Winter grooved back in quickly, shutting the door on six of the last nine hitters she faced to dissolve any trace of a Cardinal comeback.
“I knew the way that [Winter’s] pitches were moving today that she was ready to go,” Gumpf said. “I’m proud of the way she wanted the ball and attacked hitters.”
The Irish will take on Michigan State today at home.
“Every game means so much right now,” Gumpf said. “Especially as many as we have had taken from us.”
First pitch against Michigan State is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. today at Melissa Cook Stadium.