March 8, 2014
ATLANTA, Ga. - The University of Notre Dame softball team opened its Atlantic Coast Conference era in high style Saturday, shutting out host Georgia Tech 3-0 in the opening game Saturday of a conference doubleheader at Mewborn Field. The Yellow Jackets gained retribution in the nightcap, stopping the Irish 7-3 to even the series at one game apiece.
Senior pitcher Laura Winter (10-2) went the distance in the first contest, moving into solo second place on the all-time Notre Dame wins list with her 93rd career victory. The San Diego, Calif., native spun a two-hit shutout on 89 pitches, walking none with 12 strikeouts to earn the first win for No. 22/21 Notre Dame (16-4) in the ACC. Winter also became the second pitcher in program history to strike out 900 or more batters, reaching 902 punch-outs in her Irish career.
Winter added three base hits over the two-game stretch, contributing a double, a home run and three RBI at the plate. She also drew two walks to post a .833 on-base percentage for the afternoon.
Freshman Casey Africano, junior All-American Emilee Koerner and junior Jenna Simon contributed two hits each, with Koerner recording a pair of doubles. The pair of two-baggers moved Koerner into a tie for 10th place in the Notre Dame record book with associate coach Lizzy Lemire ('01) with 43 career doubles.
Notre Dame and Georgia Tech close the weekend set Sunday with the rubber match of the opening conference series. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. (ET), and the game will be available live via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN player.
Junior Katey Haus registered the first Notre Dame ACC hit, stroking a two-out double in the top of the first inning to the gap in left center field off Georgia Tech starter Kylie Kleinschmidt (9-2). Kleinschmidt held the Irish runner at second base, striking Winter out on a swinging third strike.
Winter sat the first two Yellow Jacket batters she faced, Ashley Thomas and Hayley Downs, aside on looking third strikes, and retired Katie Johnsky with a strikeout of the swinging variety following a Georgia Tech (13-5) single through the left side to post a scoreless bottom of the first inning.
Winter kept it rolling in the bottom of the second, striking out the side for the second straight frame. Karly Fullem, Morgan Taylor and Kanani Cabrales each went down swinging to give the Irish hurler six straight K's to open the contest.
Singles through the left side by junior Jenna Simon and freshman Karley Wester gave Notre Dame two on with one out in the top of the third inning. A stolen base by Simon that advanced both runners into scoring position set the table for Haus, whose sacrifice fly to center scored Simon for the first Notre Dame ACC run and gave the Irish a 1-0 lead. Winter kept the pedal to the floor as the next batter, crushing a full-count pitch from Kleinschmidt deep and gone over the left field fence for her first home run of the season and a 3-0 Irish lead.
Winter showed more of the same in the bottom of the fourth, striking out Alysha Rudnik and Downs swinging before forcing Johnsky to fly out to sophomore Megan Sorlie in right field for the third Georgia Tech out.
Kleinschmidt kept the Irish off the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, but not before Koerner ripped her ACC-leading ninth double of the season to the gap in right center field. Koerner tied Linda Kohan ('09) for 11th place on the career doubles list with her 42 career two-bagger with the hit.
A base hit with two outs off the bat Cabrales gave the Yellow Jackets some momentum in the bottom of the fifth inning, but a groundout by pinch hitter Courtney Ziese to third base stalled the Georgia Tech surge.
Winter made Notre Dame history with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, striking pinch hitter Caitlyn Coffey out swinging for her 900th career strikeout at Notre Dame. Winter joined two-time All-American Terri Kobata ('96) as the only other member of the Irish 900 Club.
Emilee Koerner opened the contest with her second double of the day, and 10th of the season, off Georgia Tech starter Kanani Cabrales (4-3) in the top of the first inning. A Karley Wester ground ball to shortstop moved Koerner over to third base, and Laura Winter blasted an RBI single up the middle two batters later, scoring Koerner to make it 1-0 Notre Dame.
Georgia Tech quickly took the lead in the bottom half of the first, as Alysha Rudnik ripped a two-run double into the left center field gap to put the hosts up 2-1. An RBI single for Cabrales increased the Georgia Tech advantage to 3-1. A base hit up the middle for Chelsie Thomas was the fourth run of the inning (4-1). Irish starter Allie Rhodes (4-2) punched Maddie Lionberger out looking to end the frame and escape the jam.
A pair of Georgia Tech base runners reached in the bottom of the second inning, but Notre Dame reliever Rachel Nasland held strong, striking out two Yellow Jacket batters to strand both on the pond.
The Yellow Jackets opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a Lionberger leadoff double off the top of the center field wall, but Nasland maintained her composure. The freshman hurler retired Ashley Thomas on a groundout to shortstop, Hayley Downs on a groundout to third base on a nice play by Katey Haus and Rudnik on a pop up to second base.
The Ramblin' Wreck added three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, all by way of home runs. A leadoff single from Casey Africano in the top of the seventh set the stage for captain Chloe Saganowich, who crushed a two-run home run over the left field wall to trim the deficit to 7-3. Cabrales retired the final two Notre Dame hitters to end the contest.