Feb. 9, 2014
AUBURN, Ala. - It was a day of pitching prowess, and timely hitting, for the University of Notre Dame softball team on the diamond Sunday at the Auburn Plainsman Invitational at Jane B. Moore Field. A 9-0 victory in five innings to open the day against Morehead State got the Irish off on the winning track, and a scrappy 3-2 comeback win in eight innings over host Auburn capped off a 3-1 Notre Dame weekend.
The story in the opening game was sophomore left-hander Allie Rhodes, who allowed only two base runners in a no-hit effort against Morehead State. Rhodes walked no Eagle batters over her five innings of work, finishing one strikeout off of her career-high with eight punch-outs.
"It felt awesome, and I felt like I was in my element," Rhodes said. "I was really just out there throwing, and it felt great."
Mixing speeds was the key for Rhodes in both of her starts during the weekend. The Irish southpaw surrendered two hits in nine full innings of work, walking three and striking out 11 batters in wins over Tennessee Tech (9-1) and Morehead State.
"My changeup was really effective today, so that kept the hitters off guard," Rhodes said.
Junior All-American Emilee Koerner opened the contest with a bang, slugging her first home run of the season to lead off the game for Notre Dame. The hit not only sparked the Irish attack, but changed Koerner's entire weekend at the dish.
"It felt really good," Koerner said. "(Morehead State pitcher Megan Tymorek) left the ball over the middle of the plate with two strikes, and I crushed it. It felt good."
Koerner, a preseason espnW first team All-American, added another home run in the second inning, and went yard for a third time on the day in game two against Auburn to get Notre Dame on the scoreboard. The Tustin, Calif., native closed the weekend with one double, one triple, three home runs, seven RBI, two stolen bases and six runs scored, good for a 1.286 slugging percentage.
"I felt a little bit rusty on Saturday, going into the second game and seeing different pitching," Koerner said. "Today I made a few adjustments and had some help from (associate coach) Lizzy (Lemire) telling me what was wrong, and made those adjustments. It turned out to be a much better day."
The old adage of not acknowledging the no-hitter, for luck's sake, was not lost on Notre Dame during Rhodes' bid in game one. In fact, Rhodes, who tossed the 40th no-hitter (33rd solo) in program history, did not consider the milestone at all during the game.
"I never think of, `Oh, I'm throwing a no-hitter,' or that we are three innings in," Rhodes said. "I always take it one hitter at a time."
The Irish now return home to campus for a week of practice prior to traveling to the Jacksonville University Tournament on Feb. 15-16 in Jacksonville, Fla. That carries with it the return to indoor practice once more to prepare after four games on the diamond.
"It's definitely a change, but nothing that we can't handle," Koerner said. "Definitely not too hard."
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Game One - Notre Dame 9, Morehead State 0 (five innings)
Allie Rhodes (2-0) retired Morehead State in order to open the contest, striking out Kayla McGuffey swinging, forcing Dana Hutchins to ground out to third base and inducing a Stephanie Etter lineout to first base.
All-American Emilee Koerner got the Irish offense off to a fast start, drilling a 0-2 pitch from Eagles starter Megan Tymorek (1-2) over the center field fence for her first home run of the season and a 1-0 Notre Dame advantage.
Sophomore Megan Sorlie continued her hot hitting in the bottom of the second, ripping a leadoff double up the middle before taking third on a stolen base. A fielder's choice RBI off the bat of senior captain Chloe Saganowich brought Sorlie in and upped the Irish lead to 2-0. A junior Jenna Simon base hit brought Koerner to the plate with two on and two away.
The espnW preseason first team All-American crushed another 0-2 offering over the wall in center, bringing the Notre Dame run count to 5-0. It was Koerner's second career multi-home run game, as the Irish center fielder blasted two long balls on March 24, 2013 at Seton Hall. A double from senior Lauren Stuhr and an RBI single from junior Katey Haus capped the five-run Notre Dame frame (6-0).
Rhodes continued the momentum in the top of the third inning, retiring Tressa Watson and McGuffey on swinging third strikes to keep Morehead State off the scoreboard. A pair of groundouts and a strikeout in the fourth kept the Irish southpaw moving in the circle.
A fielding error on a freshman Karley Wester ground ball allowed Koerner to score all the way from first base, extending the Notre Dame lead to seven (7-0). Morehead State reliever Tanna Seuferer struck out Haus swinging with two outs, but an Eagle throwing error allowed Haus to take second and sent Wester to third base. A two-run single by junior Cassidy Whidden plated both runners and upped the Irish cushion to 9-0.
Rhodes sat down Morehead State (1-4) one final time in the top of the fifth, striking out Katie Raile and Watson swinging to secure her first career no-hitter.
Game Two - Notre Dame 3, Auburn 2 (eight innings)
Freshman Kimmy Sullivan picked up her first career hit in the top of the sixth inning, lacing a 3-2 Lexi Davis (2-1) pitch down the right field line for a pinch-hit double. A sacrifice bunt by Megan Sorlie moved Sullivan over to third base with one away. Emilee Koerner ripped a high fly ball into the gap in left center field, and Auburn left fielder Tiffany Howard lost the ball in the sun, allowing the ball to fall and score Sullivan from third on the RBI double. A base hit from Karley Wester gave the Irish two runners on with one out, but a nifty 4-6-3 double play by the Tigers got the home team out of the jam with the score tied at 2-2.
After Jade Rhodes fouled out to Wester in left field, the Notre Dame defense doubled off McKenzie Kilpatrick at second base after she had already rounded third base on the run. The twin killing ended the inning and got the Irish out of trouble.
The Tigers went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. After placing pinch runner Carly Piccinich at second, a fielder's choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt by senior Lauren Stuhr left both runners safe. A sacrifice bunt by captain Chloe Saganowich moved both runners into scoring position. A wild pitch from Davis with Sorlie at the plate allowed Piccinich to score from third base, giving the Irish their first lead of the day at 3-2.
A Morgan Estell fly ball to center field moved placed runner Howard to third base with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, and a pair of walks loaded the bases for the Tigers. A foul out to Wester in left field clinched the game for Notre Dame.
Auburn worked a pair of walks to open the bottom of the first inning, but Laura Winter (1-1) retired Kasey Cooper, Branndi Melero and Kilpatrick on fly outs to escape the jam and keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Winter limited Auburn (3-1-1) to only four hits in eight innings, walking four and striking out eight Tigers.
Austyn West broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning, crushing a solo home run off the scoreboard in left field to put the Tigers up 1-0. Winter bounced back immediately, striking out Kelsey Bogaards looking and Howard swinging to halt the Auburn surge.
Leadoff hitter Emily Carosone connected on a 0-1 Winter offering to open the bottom of the third inning, sending a solo shot of her own deep and gone over the right field fence to extend the Auburn lead to 2-0. Winter regained composure again, forcing Estell to ground out back to the mound before striking out Melero and Kilpatrick to close the inning.
Emilee Koerner broke Notre Dame's hitless drought with her third home run of the day, taking a Davis offering straight away to center field to claw the Irish back within one (2-1) in the top of the fourth inning. Davis retired the next three Irish batters to stall the Notre Dame offense.
Winter earned her first 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the fourth inning, inducing a Rhodes pop up to Saganowich at shortstop, getting West to chase for strike three and forcing a Bogaards groundout to end the Auburn half.
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant