Irish take four of five at Mary Nutter Classic
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Momentum is in Notre Dame’s corner after a turbulent weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, where the Irish went 4-1 over the course of the weekend, including an upset victory over No. 8 UCLA on Saturday.
Notre Dame (7-3) began play in Cathedral City, California, on Friday against Utah Valley, downing the Wolverines, 11-4.
Utah Valley (4-6) got off to a two-run lead in the first inning, but the Irish answered back and took a 3-2 lead off sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed’s two-run double.
Notre Dame took a commanding 10-4 lead after a four-run third inning in which two Irish runs scored off Utah Valley throwing errors.
Irish sophomore pitcher Sara White allowed the Wolverines to load the bases in two consecutive innings, but she worked her way out of the jams as the Irish went on to finish a sizable win.
Later that evening, Notre Dame took on its first ranked opponent of the Classic, No. 11 Washington. The Huskies (9-1) attacked the Irish early and held a 5-1 lead after two innings.
However, senior pitcher Allie Rhodes and junior pitcher Rachel Nasland held the Huskies scoreless for the remainder of the game. A two-run home run from senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Irish hope, but Notre Dame could not complete the comeback and fell 5-4 to end the first day of play.
The Irish got off to another slow start the next day against Cal Poly as the Mustangs (6-4) scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the first.
Sophomore left fielder Bailey Bigler tied the game with a two-run double in the top of the second inning and with two outs, freshman second baseman Ali Wester added two more runs to put Notre Dame up 4-2.
A strong defensive effort helped the Irish hang on to their lead: Arizmendi turned a double-play off of a sacrifice-bunt attempt, and Ali Wester threw out a Mustang runner at the plate as the Irish won 6-3.
The big moment of the week for Notre Dame came Saturday evening as the Irish bested No. 8-ranked UCLA, 8-6.
The Bruins (7-3) look poised for a big first inning after a bases-loaded walk, but Nasland struck out two Bruin batters to leave the inning only down 1-0. The Irish threatened to score in the second but left Arizmendi stranded on third base. UCLA junior shortstop Delaney Spaulding extended the Bruins’ lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the second.
Ali Wester came through again for the Irish in the top of the third inning with a two-run single to score her sister, junior center fielder Karley Wester, and Bigler.
The Bruins, however, regained the lead in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI double with two outs from freshman first baseman Taylor Pack. An RBI groundout in the bottom of the fourth inning extended the lead to 4-2 for UCLA.
Notre Dame broke the game open in the fifth inning and took 7-4 lead off of RBIs from Ali Wester, Arizmendi, senior catcher Casey Africano and two from freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford.
Rhodes entered the game for the Irish and gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, but another run from Ali Wester in the sixth inning sealed the 8-6 victory for the Irish.
Building on their momentum, the Irish shut out George Washington on the final day of competition, 12-0. Rochford hit her second home run of the year, and Rhodes got the win on the mound for the Irish and improved her record as a starter to 3-2.
Looking ahead, the Irish head to Kissimmee, Florida, this weekend for the Diamond 9 Classic, which will start Friday at 1:15 p.m. against East Carolina.