Feb. 10, 2017
by Tony Jones
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Late-inning drama was in abundance during the opening day of the 2017 season for the University of Notre Dame softball team. The Irish scored a walk-off win against Weber State 2-1, before dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to host Long Beach State on Friday at the Beach Kickoff Tournament at the LBSU Softball Complex.
How It Happened
It was a pitcher’s duel early in the season opener for both teams. Morgan Reed picked up the first Notre Dame (1-1) hit of 2017 with a base knock to right center, and advanced into scoring position by way of a stolen base. Reed was thrown out trying to take third base later in the bottom of the first to halt the threat.
Katie Beriont got off to a fast start over the first four innings in the circle, facing one batter above the minimum to open the contest. Beriont walked no batters and struck out three over the opening four frames.
Notre Dame looked to break through in the bottom of the fourth, after Kimmy Sullivan walked and a Melissa Rochford base hit put runners in scoring position with two outs. Weber State pitcher Kirtlyn Bohling forced a fly out to right field one batter latter to strand the runners.
Weber State (0-1) broke through in the top of the sixth inning after a miscue in the field on a pickoff attempt by the Notre Dame defense kept Sydney White on the bases. Rae Fall made the Irish pay later in the inning, lining an RBI single to center to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame found its rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Caitlyn Brooks drew a one-out walk as a pinch hitter, and Madison Heide followed with her first career hit to move Bailey Bigler into scoring position at second base. Sara White ripped a pinch-hit single through the right side one batter later, bringing home Bigler to tie the game at 1-1. Weber State intentionally walked captain Karley Wester to load the bases, where a wild pitch ultimately scored a flying Chelsea Purcell for the 2-1 Notre Dame walk-off win.
Long Beach State
The Notre Dame offense looked to get in motion during the top of the second inning. Walks issued to Caitlyn Brooks and Katie Marino put a pair of Irish runners on base. A strikeout kept the Notre Dame ducks on the pond.
Rachel Nasland strung together back-to-back three-up, three-down innings in the second and third stanzas for the Notre Dame defense. A flyout to captain Karley Wester in center field ended the Long Beach State half of the third frame.
Morgan Reed got the offense cooking in the top of the fourth inning with a single into center field. A sacrifice bunt by Melissa Rochford moved Reed into scoring position at second base. Brooks then stepped in and ripped an RBI single to right field, plating Reed for the 1-0 Notre Dame advantage.
Long Beach State (2-1) began a rally of its own in the bottom of the fourth inning, following a pair of 49er walks. In the midst of the surge, Rochford stepped up with a great snag of a line drive down the third base line to double off the lead Long Beach State runner at second and escape the jam.
Without the aid of a hit, Long Beach State loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Back-to-back sacrifice flies gave the 49ers a 2-1 lead. Nasland forced a groundout to third base to end the inning.
The Long Beach State edge would be short-lived. Ali Wester notched a one-out bunt single and took second base on a 49ers throwing error in the top of the sixth. Reed leaped at the RBI chance, crushing a triple off the wall in right center for Notre Dame to tie the contest at 2-2.
The Irish struck first in extra innings, throwing a run on the board in the top of the ninth. MK Bonamy delivered an RBI double into left field to score Reed and vault Notre Dame in front 3-2.
After two stellar Notre Dame putouts at the plate kept Long Beach State off the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth, Lauren Lombardi connected on a walkoff double to the right center gap with the bases loaded to end the game.
Morgan Reed led all Notre Dame hitters with a 4-for-6 day at the plate, adding a walk, triple, RBI and stolen base to the cause, all while clearing the 100-hit plateau for her career … the Notre Dame pitching staff limited opponents to 10 hits in 15.2 innings (.185 batting average against), striking out 10 hitters … Notre Dame has now won its first game in each of the last four seasons … Friday’s game was the first meeting between Notre Dame and Weber State on the softball diamond.
The Irish resume the Beach Kickoff Tournament on Saturday, beginning play against South Dakota at noon (ET) at the LBSU Softball Complex.
For the latest news and updates on all things Notre Dame softball, visit www.und.com/softball, follow the Irish @NDsoftball and @NDcoachGumpf on Twitter and at Instagram.com/notredamesoftball, and Like the team at Facebook.com/NDSoftball.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men's soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.