Irish fall to ranked foes at ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Two weeks into the season, Notre Dame sits at just under .500 after a 1-3 showing at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Irish (4-5) started the Challenge on Friday against No. 13 Minnesota, falling 4-1 to the Golden Gophers (9-0). The Irish started the scoring in their first game of the weekend with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Junior second baseman Morgan Reed knocked a one-out triple to right field and scored later in the inning on a groundout RBI by freshman pitcher Caitlyn Brooks.
The Golden Gophers mounted a comeback, however, which started with a leadoff home run in the top of the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, another home run and a wild pitch gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead, which turned into a 4-1 advantage in the seventh and final inning.
The next morning, Notre Dame picked up its only win of the weekend in a 6-4 affair against No. 11 Michigan. Wolverines senior right-handed pitcher Megan Betsa got off to a rough start on the day, as the Irish struck quickly. Sophomore third baseman Melissa Rochford was hit by a pitch before Reed reached on an infield single to bring up Brooks. Brooks blasted a 1-1 pitch to left field for her first home run of the year, giving the Irish a 3-0 lead in the first frame. The Irish added a run in the second inning following a Michigan throwing error.
The Wolverines (6-3) chipped away at Notre Dame’s lead however, picking up two runs in the third inning and another in the fourth to make it a 4-3 game. Brooks, however, came up big for the Irish again in the fifth inning, as she hit another home run to center field, scoring herself and Reed. Michigan scored once more, but the Irish hung on to win the game, 6-4.
The next game on Saturday — a rematch with Minnesota — did not go as smoothly as the day’s first for Notre Dame. The Irish did gain an early advantage off of a sacrifice fly from Reed, and the Maylene, Alabama, native doubled in the third inning to give the Irish a 2-0 lead after three innings. But the Golden Gophers came back; a leadoff home run and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth inning tied the game.
The game went into extra innings, and in the bottom of the eighth, Minnesota managed to get a runner on base who advanced to second on a wild pitch and later scored on a single to hand the Golden Gophers a walk-off victory.
In its final game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Notre Dame went up against Michigan a second time. This time, however, the Wolverines gained the upper hand. Unlike its first matchup with Notre Dame, Michigan struck first Sunday with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning against Irish senior right-handed pitcher Rachel Nasland. Sophomore left fielder Ali Wester brought the Irish back within one, however, reaching base on an infield single and eventually scoring on a wild pitch.
From the second inning, though, the Wolverines dominated the contest; two solo home runs in the second inning extended Michigan’s lead to 4-1, and three runs in the top of the fourth inning put the game all but out of reach at 7-1.
The Wolverines added another two-run shot in the top of the seventh inning to extend their lead to 9-1. Freshman infielder Katie Marino recorded her first collegiate home run for the Irish in the bottom of the final frame, but the Irish lost 9-2 and fell to 1-3 on the weekend.
Notre Dame next travels to Cathedral City, California, to compete in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.