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Irish mercy Eastern Michigan, extend winning streak to 19

| Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Irish kept rolling Tuesday evening, beating Eastern Michigan 10-2 and extending their winning streak to 19 games.

For No. 19 Notre Dame (23-3, 3-0 ACC) it was just the second game of the season at Melissa Cook Stadium, and the Irish were in control from start to finish. Despite their winning streak, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said she is only concerned with improvement on a day-to-day basis.

“We really try to do a great job of just looking what we learned today and how to get a little bit better tomorrow,” Gumpf said. “All we care about is the next game.”

Senior pitcher Allie Rhodes earned her 11th win as the Kirkland, Washington native went four innings, struck out six batters and gave up four hits.

“Allie will just battle,” Gumpf said. “The team loves to play behind her. She is a fighter and she’ll battle and she’ll do anything to win.”

Not to be outdone, Notre Dame’s offense gave Rhodes an early lead. In the bottom of the first, junior center fielder Karley Wester walked to lead off the inning and then stole second base for the 23rd time this year. Her sister, freshman left fielder Ali Wester, drove her in three pitches later on a single to right field.

Irish junior center fielder Karley Wester rounds third base during Tuesday's 10-2 victory over Eastern Michigan at Melissa Cook Stadium. She scored two runs on a hit and a walk in the game.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish junior center fielder Karley Wester rounds third base during Tuesday’s 10-2 victory over Eastern Michigan at Melissa Cook Stadium. She scored two runs on a hit and a walk in the game.

Ali Wester was thrown out stealing second, but two consecutive errors by the Eagles (9-14, 0-0 MAC) gave the Irish runners on second and third. Then, on the first pitch of her at-bat, sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed drilled a double to left-center to drive in the two Irish baserunners. Freshman catcher Maddie McCracken added to the lead by lining a single back up the middle to score Reed and Notre Dame lead 4-0 after the first inning.

The quick start was the second one in as many games for the Irish. Against Bowling Green on Thursday, the Irish plated seven runs in the opening frame en route to a 10-0 shutout victory.

“It starts on the top,” Gumpf said. “When Allie [Rhodes] and Karley [Wester] get the job done early, all of a sudden, it opens things up. We just had some really quality at-bats that first inning, and we made them make a lot of mistakes early.”

After the four-run first inning, the Irish bats cooled off. Notre Dame went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the second with sophomore right fielder Bailey Bigler and Karley Wester getting thrown out on bunt attempts.

In the third, Notre Dame loaded the bases as freshman designated hitter Caitlyn Brooks walked, senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi was hit by a pitch and Reed reached on an error. The Irish left the inning scoreless, however, as McCracken grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Rhodes worked herself into a jam in the fourth inning. Eagles freshman first baseman Olivia Logan led off the frame with a double. Junior right fielder Michelle Kriegshauser singled to move Logan to third and then stole second herself. Rhodes was able to record one out, but freshman third baseman Amanda Akles drilled a double to right field to score two runs and cut the lead to 4-2.

The Irish answered back in their half of the fourth. Senior second baseman Carly Piccinich singled to lead off the inning and Bigler followed with a single of her own. Both Karley and Ali Wester grounded out to put the pressure on freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford. Rochford delivered and extended Notre Dame’s lead to 6-2 with a single up the middle that deflected off of Eastern Michigan’s sophomore second baseman Brandice Olmos.

Gumpf said the momentum shifted in the fourth inning when the Irish shut down the Eagles’ comeback effort.

“It was the thing I was the most proud of today,” Gumpf said. “That’s the one thing I talked about in the locker room, was my favorite part of the day was they got two, and we changed the momentum right back in our favor. And that changes everything … the minute we scored two, we knew [the game] was all ours.”

Sophomore Katie Beriont entered the game in relief for Rhodes in the fifth inning and let up a single to freshman catcher Sam Saporito, who then stole second base. Beriont settled down, however, and got out of the inning without giving up a run.

To start the fifth, Arizmendi reached on an error by Olmos. The error proved significant as Reed blasted a home run to left field to give the Irish two more insurance runs. Reed had three hits and four RBIs on the day.

“I think I was just seeing the ball really well,” Reed said. “Making sure I wasn’t guessing and just looking to see what [Eastern Michigan’s pitchers] threw the other left-handed batters before me.”

The Irish weren’t done, however. Bigler made her way to third and scored on a single from Karley Wester and the game ended a batter later with Ali Wester driving her sister in to clinch the game by mercy rule, 10-2.

After the win over the Eagles, the Irish now look to face Michigan State on Wednesday night. Gumpf said she expects a tough game when the Spartans (16-12, 0-0 Big Ten) come to Melissa Cook Stadium.

“Michigan State’s a really good team,” Gumpf said. “They’re a funny team. They’ve had some really good pitching and their hitting has really come along and they’re very tough, they’re a tough team. We’ll have our hands full with them, they’re going to play a great game against us and we’re going to attack them.”

Notre Dame and Michigan State are slated to begin Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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