Notre Dame tops IUPUI for 18th straight nonconference win
Benjamin Padanilam | Wednesday, April 6, 2016
No. 20 Notre Dame won its 18th straight nonconference game Tuesday, defeating IUPUI 11-3 at Melissa Cook Stadium.
It was the Jaguars (10-22, 0-4 Summit) who struck first in the game when senior second baseman Ali Mosier hit a two-out solo home run in the top of the first inning to give her team an early 1-0 lead.
A two-out homer hurt the Irish (27-6, 5-3 ACC) again in the top of the second inning, as Jaguars freshman designated hitter Kaitlynn Moody connected on the first-pitch offering of Irish senior Allie Rhodes and sent it over the fence to left-center field to extend the Jaguars’ lead to 2-0.
Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said Rhodes might not have had her best performance in her two innings of work, but she had command over her pitches and found a way to pitch effectively.
“The great thing about Allie is that she gave up some big hits, but she also did a great job of finding what she needed to do to be successful today,” Gumpf said.
The Irish responded in the bottom of the frame, however, with an offensive flurry of its own. Senior right fielder Megan Sorlie doubled to left center to drive in sophomore shortstop Morgan Reed and cut the deficit in half, 2-1. Three batters later, freshman second baseman Ali Wester drove in two more runs on a single that found its way past the shortstop. Then just two batters later, freshman designated hitter Caitlyn Brooks hit a three-run homer to give the Irish a commanding 6-2 lead.
“Caitlyn’s hit changed everything,” Gumpf said. “I knew once we got one that we’d be fine — we could start getting momentum — but that hit was big because it just shut them down really fast.”
Irish junior Rachel Nasland replaced Rhodes on the mound in the top of the third inning, but she ran into trouble early. The right hander gave up three straight hits that led to a run and runners on second and third with no outs, but a passed ball that led to an out at the plate settled her down. She retired the next two batters to limit the damage, helping the Irish maintain a 6-3 lead.
“I think Rachel got better as the day went on, for sure, and found the zone,” Gumpf said. “She wasn’t finding the zone early, so that, I think, tripped her up a little bit. … I think she got in the groove, and she got better as the game went on, too.”
Both teams left runners on base during their next trips to the plate, but the Irish extended their lead in the bottom of the fourth. Notre Dame was patient at the plate while Jaguars sophomore pitcher Nickole Finch struggled with her control, as Finch walked three batters and hit two others in the frame. The free passes allowed the Irish to score five runs on just two hits, pushing their lead to 11-3.
“I think what we realized with [Finch] is that when we were hitting in her zone, she was really successful,” Gumpf said of her team’s fourth inning. “We had to make sure that she was the one stretching the plate, and she wasn’t. We were hitting bad pitches. Then, we had a great approach to the plate, made her throw strikes and she was very unsuccessful, so that’s good.”
Sophomore Katie Beriont replaced Nasland on the mound for the Irish in the top of the fifth. After walking the leading hitter, she retired the next three batters to close out the game via the mercy rule after five innings, 11-3.
With Thursday’s game against DePaul cancelled due to an inclement weather forecast, Notre Dame will next take the field Saturday when it begins its weekend series with Pittsburgh. Gumpf said the win provided the Irish with important momentum as they head into the series.
“We’re really just trying to find some rhythm before we hit Pitt,” Gumpf said. “Pitt’s strength is offensive and they can hit the ball hard, and we just have to do a great job of making sure we’re playing our best ball.”
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will play a doubleheader Saturday and another game Sunday at Melissa Cook Stadium. First pitch for Saturday’s first game is scheduled for 1 p.m.