March 5, 2017
by Tony Jones
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame softball team put the finishing touches on an undefeated weekend with a pair of Sunday wins to close the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Irish defeated Chattanooga 9-1 in five innings before blanking Charlotte 4-0 to cap a 4-0 weekend at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
How It Happened
Notre Dame (10-8) struck early on offense in the top of the first inning. Karley Wester reached by way of a leadoff walk and took second with a stolen base. An RBI double down the left field line for Morgan Reed two batters later scored Wester and gave the Irish a 1-0 lead.
From there, the floodgates opened for the Irish attack in the opening frame. Notre Dame would add seven additional runs on three hits and three Chattanooga (6-13) errors to force a pitching change. A two-run single for Maddie McCracken and a two-run Karley Wester double highlighted the surge for the 8-0 Irish advantage.
Chattanooga picked up its first run of the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the second to trim the Notre Dame lead to 8-1. Caitlyn Brooks bounced back with a pair of ground ball outs to halt the Mocs offense in the inning.
Notre Dame tacked on an insurance run in the top of the third inning. McCracken led off with a single through the left side, and reached third after a Bailey Bigler bunt single and error. Ali Wester brought McCracken home with an RBI single to center for the 9-1 Irish cushion.
Katie Beriont pitched the final two innings of relief in the circle for Notre Dame, yielding a lone Chattanooga single while striking out four Mocs batters.
An early walk and a hard-hit single down the line at third base put two Charlotte (15-7) runners on with one away in the top of the first. Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland responded by forcing a popout to shortstop and a flyout to left field to end the inning.
Notre Dame broke through on the offensive end in the bottom of the second inning. Caitlyn Brooks led off with an infield single to shortstop, moving into scoring position on a Melissa Rochford sacrifice bunt. A Kimmy Sullivan single to left field put two on with one out for Katie Marino, who crushed a three-run home run to left field through the Florida breeze. Marino’s third home run of the season made it 3-0 Irish.
Nasland settled into a rhythm in the top of the third inning against the Charlotte lineup. A groundout, swinging strikeout and flyout sat the 49ers side down in order.
Notre Dame added an insurance run in the home half of the third stanza. Karley Wester reached with an infield single to shortstop before cleanly stealing second base. Consecutive groundouts, including one of the RBI variety from Morgan Reed, vaulted the Irish ahead 4-0.
Nasland cruised for the remainder of the game, allowing only two baserunners over her final four innings in the circle. A pair of three-up, three-down frames against the Charlotte order in the fifth and seventh innings capped the first Notre Dame shutout of 2017.
Notre Dame improved to 27-4 (.871) at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic since 2011 … the Irish outscored opponents by a combined 24-5 run count during the four-game weekend sweep … Karley Wester paced the Notre Dame offense with seven hits, three stolen bases and five runs scored during the tournament, while Melissa Rochford led the way with four RBI … Wester, Morgan Reed and Katie Marino each chipped in three RBI apiece … the Notre Dame pitching staff yielded three earned runs over 27 innings of play for the weekend, holding opponents to a .206 batting average against … Rachel Nasland tossed 15.2 innings without surrendering an earned run, walking just one with 11 strikeouts to claim two victories.
The Irish open Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play on March 11 at Georgia Tech, facing the Yellow Jackets in a doubleheader in Atlanta.
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.