Feb. 28, 2014
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The University of Notre Dame softball team kept its early season momentum rolling Friday on the opening day of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The No. 23 Irish began the day with a 7-3 win over a game Fordham team, and closed out regional foe Illinois State 4-2 in the nightcap to complete the sweep at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Notre Dame (12-3) has now won 10 of its last 12 contests, outscoring opponents by a cumulative 70-33 run differential in those games. The Irish have also won their last six games at the Citrus Classic, dating back to their four victories at last season's tournament.
Junior Jenna Simon led all Notre Dame batters with three hits during the day's games, adding a double and two RBI to the Irish attack. Classmate Cassidy Whidden chipped in a pair of RBI, while senior captain Chloe Saganowich contributed an RBI triple against Fordham.
Sophomore Allie Rhodes improved to 4-1 on the season with a victory over Fordham, tossing four innings of two-run softball, walking three and striking out three Rams batters. Freshman Rachel Nasland earned her second save of the season in the game, allowing one run over the final three innings to shut down the Fordham offense.
Senior Laura Winter (7-2) became the third pitcher in Notre Dame history to win 90 career games, tossing a complete game effort against Illinois State. Winter allowed six hits, walking two Redbird batters while striking out eight, going the distance for the 77th time in her Notre Dame career.
Notre Dame returns to the field for a pair of games Saturday on day two of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Irish are scheduled to square off against Ohio State at 3:30 p.m. (ET), with a second game against Radford to follow at 5:45 p.m.
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Game One - #23 Notre Dame 7, Fordham 3
Fordham had a pair of runners reach in the top of the first inning, as Elise Fortier and Gabby Luety each worked full-count walks. Notre Dame starter Allie Rhodes forced counterpart Michele Daubman to foul out to sophomore Micaela Arizmendi at first base to end the Rams half of the inning.
A leadoff double down the left field line for junior All-American Emilee Koerner against Daubman (3-6) set the tone for Notre Dame in the bottom of the first inning, and freshman Karley Wester then reached on a Fordham fielder's choice. A perfect sacrifice bunt from junior Katey Haus moved both runners into scoring position, where a Daubman wild pitch scored Koerner from third base to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. A walk to senior Laura Winter and a hit by pitch for junior Cassidy Whidden loaded the bases with one out. An RBI fielder's choice groundout by sophomore Megan Sorlie upped the Notre Dame advantage to 2-0.
Wester kicked off the bottom of the third with an infield single, and a laser double down the third base line from Haus advanced the lead runner to third base. A sacrifice fly to left field by Whidden allowed Wester to tag from third base, scoring the third Irish run of the ballgame (3-0).
Kayla Lombardo got Fordham on the board in the top half of the fourth inning, turning on a 2-1 pitch and drilling a two-run home run over the left field fence to cut the deficit to 3-2. Rhodes then forced a long fly out from Cora Ianiro to Wester in left field to end the Fordham surge.
Notre Dame immediately answered back in the bottom half of the fourth, after Arizmendi opened the Irish trip with a single through the right side. Junior Jenna Simon sent a rocket shot down the third base line, scoring Arizmendi on her first double of the season. Simon further moved into scoring position by stealing third base, and Wester manufactured a walk to give Notre Dame runners on the corners with two away. A hard grounder by Haus to her counterpart at third, Lombardo, ended the inning.
Fordham chipped away in the top of the fifth inning, as an RBI single by Elise Fortier scored Sydney Canessa and cut the Notre Dame cushion to 4-3. Irish reliever Rachel Nasland forced Paige Ortiz to pop out to Arizmendi at first base for the third and final out.
Notre Dame broke the game open once and for all in the bottom of the fifth inning, which began when Winter blasted a leadoff double off Fordham reliever Rachel Gillen. A sacrifice bunt from Whidden moved pinch runner Carly Piccinich to third base. An errant throw to the plate on an infield grounder from Sorlie allowed Piccinich to score from third (5-3). Senior captain Chloe Saganowich then blasted a Gillen offering over the head of Fordham right fielder Amy Van Hoven, sliding in at third base for her first triple of the season. A wide throw from Van Hoven allowed Saganowich to score the second Notre Dame run of the play and push the Irish in front 7-3.
Game Two - #23 Notre Dame 4, Illinois State 2
Illinois State got off to a fast start in the top of the first inning, as a Lauren Canopy RBI single up the middle scored Nichelle Harrison to give the Redbirds a 1-0 lead. Notre Dame starter Laura Winter forced consecutive fly ball outs by Regan Romshek and Kolby Hoffman to end the Illinois State half.
Notre Dame answered in the bottom of the first inning, as All-American Emilee Koerner opened the Irish ups with a double over the head of left fielder Canopy against starter Taylor Baxter (1-6). An infield single for Karley Wester moved Koerner to third base, where she ultimately scored on a Katey Haus RBI groundout to shortstop that tied the game at 1-1. A sharp single up the middle two batters later by Cassidy Whidden scored Wester and put Notre Dame in front 2-1.
Winter breezed through the Illinois State order in the top of the third, forcing Sara Bradley to fly out to left field, Harrison to ground out to shortstop and striking out Canopy on a swinging strike three. Winter's perfect frame held the Notre Dame lead at one run (2-1).
It was more of the same from the Irish defense in the top of the fourth inning, as Winter began the frame with strikeouts swinging of both Romshek and Hoffman. Stephanie Gallant popped out to Jenna Simon at second base to stall the Redbird attack.
Winter helped her own cause in the bottom of the fourth, crushing a double into the right field corner off Baxter to begin the Notre Dame ups. Whidden sacrificed pinch runner Monica Torres to third base with a well located bunt, but an infield grounder to the third baseman Bradley put Torres out at home. A pair of walks loaded the bases for Notre Dame, and an infield single to the right side by Simon scored Arizmendi (3-1).
Illinois State chipped away with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, as an RBI single from Jordan de los Reyes into left field plated Canopy to close the gap to 3-2. Winter blew three straight pitches by pinch hitter Annie Heineman to escape the jam.
The Irish tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, as Arizmendi reached after being hit by a pitch to open the frame. Arizmendi moved to second base on a Megan Sorlie groundout. A high chopper off the bat of Casey Africano was mishandled at first base by Illinois State's Gallant, allowing Arizmendi to score from second to up the Notre Dame lead to 4-2.
Winter retired Illinois State in order in the top of the seventh inning, inducing Kara Repp to fly out to left field, striking out Bradley swinging and forcing Harrison to pop up to third base on an attempted bunt.
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant