Complete team effort leads Irish to victory
Marek Mazurek | Friday, March 18, 2016
After nearly a month of road games, No. 19 Notre Dame grabbed a 10-0 victory in its home opener Thursday night against Bowling Green.
With the win, the Irish (22-3, 3-0 ACC) improved their all-time record against the Falcons (11-11, 0-0 MAC) to 15-6.
Junior Rachel Nasland started on the mound for the Irish and faced some trouble early on. After striking out the Falcons’ leadoff hitter, Nasland gave up two consecutive singles before striking out the next hitter and getting a flyout to left field to end the frame.
Riding a 17-game winning streak into the game, the Irish wasted no time in jumping out to a lead. Junior center fielder Karley Wester singled and stole second base to start the bottom half of the inning for Notre Dame. Two batters later, freshman third baseman Melissa Rochford, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, singled to right-center field to score Wester and give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame kept attacking in the frame, as senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi knocked in two runs with a single to right field. Three batters later, senior right fielder Megan Sorlie lined a bases-loaded double to the right-field gap and was driven in by the next batter, sophomore left fielder Bailey Bigler, to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 7-0.
“One of the things we’ve done really well, typically, is getting off to a strong start,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “I actually like being visitor, we’ve done a really great job of being visitor this year because we score first. … For us to come back and score all those runs changes the whole dynamic of the game.”
Sorlie’s double prompted the Falcons to change pitchers, as senior Braiden Dillow replaced the struggling starter, junior Briania Combs.
After building a large lead in the first inning, the Irish sailed smoothly the rest of the way. Nasland retired the side in both the second and the third innings and finished her day with three strikeouts while picking up her seventh win of the season.
“I loved Rachel [Nasland] today,” Gumpf said. “Did they hit the ball a couple of times? Yeah, but she got them to do what she wanted them to do, and Rachel had really great presence on the mound.”
The Irish ran into a rough patch in the fourth inning when sophomore Katie Beriont replaced Nasland on the mound. The Falcons got runners on first and second base, but Rochford turned a double play to end the inning.
“I liked the way Katie came in, and she got us some ground balls,” Gumpf said. “I don’t think she was very sharp in the [fourth] inning, but she still got away with it, and that’s a really good sign. The [fifth] inning she did a much better job.”
Notre Dame added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Wester reached on an infield single and stole her 21st base of the season before scoring on an error by Falcon’s senior right fielder Marina Cobbs. Two batters later, sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed scorched a double down the right-field line to plate another two Irish runners and put Notre Dame up 10-0.
The game ended one inning later via mercy rule.
Six Irish players tallied at least one RBI in the game, and seven players recorded at least one hit. Gumpf said the key to the team’s offense is its ability to stay within itself.
“I think we’re not trying to do too much,” Gumpf said. “I think we are the most successful offensively when we know what works for us and stay in our ballgame. I think our team’s done a great job of figuring out what really works for us.”
Notre Dame will continue its homestand and extend its 18-game winning streak next week when the Irish face Eastern Michigan on Tuesday followed by Michigan State on Wednesday. Gumpf said she is excited for the homestand because the team has been on the road for the last couple of weeks.
“It feels really nice to be home,” Gumpf said. “There’s nothing like playing in Melissa Cook Stadium. There are so many advantages of being here. Number one, we get to sleep in our own beds. Number two, we know this field so very well. Number three, we’re comfortable here, and I think it’s tougher for teams to come in here and play us here because it’s such a great place to play.”
Tuesday’s first pitch between the Irish and Eagles is set for 5 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.