March 4, 2017
by Tony Jones
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – A pair of solid team efforts were the order of the day to begin play for the University of Notre Dame softball team at the 2017 Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Irish opened with a 6-1 win over Purdue before finishing Saturday with a 5-3 comeback victory against FIU in eight innings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
How It Happened
After shutting out Purdue (3-14) in the top of the first inning, Notre Dame (8-8) found the scoreboard in the bottom of the first frame. Karley Wester led off with a single to second base, cleanly stealing second base. Ali Wester legged out a perfectly placed infield single to third base, bringing the runner across from second for the 1-0 Irish lead. Melissa Rochford followed with a two-run single to left center two batters later, scoring Ali Wester and Morgan Reed for the 3-0 Notre Dame advantage. Kimmy Sullivan capped the scoring in the opening inning with a sharp double down the line at third that plated Rochford (4-0).
Purdue picked up consecutive hits in the top of the second to start some offensive momentum. A great defensive play at first base by Caitlyn Brooks and a swinging strikeout forced by Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland left two Boilermakers aboard.
Notre Dame added an insurance run in the bottom of the second inning to add to its lead. The Irish loaded the bases with a pair of Wester sisters singles and a Purdue fielding error. Brooks delivered a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Karley Wester and made it 5-0 Irish.
Nasland kept her momentum rolling in the top of the third frame to shut down the Purdue order. A fly ball out to left field and a pair of infield groundouts sent the Boilermakers back to the dugout 1-2-3.
After entering in relief in the top of the fourth, Brooks worked around a Purdue leadoff single to force a strikeout, a groundout to second and a flyout to center to strand the Boilermaker runner on the pond.
Notre Dame tacked on an additional run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Sullivan reached by way of a fielder’s choice with two outs, where she was brought home by a Chelsea Purcell RBI double to left center field that upped the Irish lead to 6-0.
Purdue trimmed the Notre Dame edge to 6-1 with one out in the top of the sixth with an RBI single through the left side. Rochford made a great play on a hard grounder down the line at third one batter later, stepping on the bag and turning the double play at first to end the inning.
Brooks returned for her fourth inning of work in the circle and retired the Purdue side in top of the seventh inning. A swinging strikeout and two groundouts to second base finished off the final ups for the Boilermakers.
FIU (14-6) took a quick 1-0 lead with an RBI double to the right center gap in the bottom of the first inning. A great relay throw stopped the Panther runner trying to stretch the play into a triple at third base. Notre Dame starter Katie Beriont forced a ground ball out to first to end the frame.
FIU loaded the bases following a two-out walk in the bottom of the second. A great play at shortstop by Morgan Reed left the bags full of Panthers to end the inning.
Notre Dame tied the game in the top half of the third inning. A one-out double down the left field line by Ali Wester, and an RBI single to left from Reed squared the game at 1-1.
Notre Dame miscues in the field in the bottom of the sixth inning led to a pair of unearned FIU runs and a 3-1 Panthers lead. Irish reliever Rachel Nasland got out of the jam with a foul ball out to Ali Wester in left field.
The Irish would not stay down for long in the top of the seventh. Karley Wester reached on an infield single to shortstop, and advanced all the way to third base after a pair of fielder’s choices. With two outs in the inning, Melissa Rochford came through with a two-run double to the gap in right center field, scoring Wester and Reed to even the contest at 3-3.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh stanza for Nasland to send the game to extra innings, Notre Dame put the win away in the top of the eighth. A Katie Marino sacrifice bunt moved placed runner Kimmy Sullivan to third base, and Bailey Bigler reached on a two-out walk, Karley Wester brought Sullivan home with an RBI fielder’s choice to third base, and a subsequent FIU throwing error scored Bigler for the 5-3 Notre Dame lead.
Nasland hammered down the victory with a perfect bottom of the eighth inning to strand the placed FIU runner. A popup to second base and two groundouts secured the second Notre Dame win of the day.
Notre Dame’s 10 hits in the win over Purdue were one from tying a season-high set against Georgia (11) on Feb. 24 … Notre Dame’s first three hitters batted a combined 6-for-11 (.545) with four runs and two stolen bases against Purdue … freshman outfielder Alexis Bazos notched her first career Notre Dame hit against Purdue, while classmate/infielder Chelsea Purcell logged her first collegiate RBI against the Boilermakers … Notre Dame earned its first win in extra innings of 2017 thanks to its four-run rally in the final two frames to defeat FIU … Karley Wester finished the two Notre Dame wins on Saturday with a five combined infield hits, one RBI, one stolen base and a team-high three runs scored, while Melissa Rochford drove in a team-high four runs … Rachel Nasland did not allow an earned run in 8.2 combined innings pitched against Purdue and FIU, striking out six opposing batters with no walks.
The Irish conclude the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic with a pair of Sunday games against Chattanooga and Charlotte at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
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.