ATLANTA, Ga. - A dominant offensive performance and stellar pitching was the recipe for success for the University of Notre Dame softball team on Sunday, as the Irish tied a season-high in runs scored with an impressive 12-0 victory in five innings over Georgia Tech at Mewborn Field. Notre Dame earned its second win of the weekend against the Yellow Jackets, officially claiming its first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series.
"I was really happy with the way we came back after a really tough loss Saturday," Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. "When you have a game where everything goes against you and nothing goes right, it's really easy to get in your own head and start questioning things. I love the way we bounced back, left it all on the field, and showed everyone that we are here to compete, and we're going to keep competing."
Senior pitcher Laura Winter (11-2) won her second game of the weekend, spinning a three-hit shutout while walking one and striking out seven. The Irish hurler surrendered only five hits in 12 innings during the series, striking out 19 Georgia Tech batters while not allowing any runs.
"It's great to get us off to a good start (in the ACC)," Winter said. "Keeping our energy up that we brought yesterday is just going to help our drive. Hopefully even scare the rest of the ACC into taking us seriously."
Winter, who moved within three wins of setting the Notre Dame program record following her 94th career victory, also became the most prolific strikeout pitcher in program history on Sunday. The San Diego, Calif. native, surpassed two-time All-American Terri Kobata ('96) with her 908th career strikeout in the fourth inning to achieve the milestone.
"It's absolutely amazing," Winter said. "Getting in with all of the great pitchers that have come through Notre Dame, they all were so good. It's really nice to be up there."
No. 22/21 Notre Dame (17-4, 2-1 ACC) worked to try to manufacture a run in the top of the first inning, as junior All-American Emilee Koerner laced the first pitch she saw from Kylie Kleinschmidt (9-3) into right field for a leadoff single. Freshman Karley Wester followed with an infield single to the left side, and a walk drawn by Winter loaded the bases with one out. Kleinschmidt earned consecutive strikeouts to strand all three runners.
Georgia Tech (13-6, 2-4 ACC) managed to reach one base runner in the bottom of the first, after Hayley Downs worked a full-count walk. Winter struck out Ashley Thomas and Kanani Cabrales looking to hold Downs at second after the Yellow Jacket center fielder stole the base earlier in the frame.
"It was a little bit frustrating in the first inning because we had a lot of opportunities to put bat on ball," Gumpf said. "I thought the way we responded in the second inning was fantastic, and changed the momentum of the entire game. From that point forward the momentum stayed with us, and even when they got something rolling we shut them out.
"Laura did such a great job of leading the team, and I couldn't be any more happy of her strikeout record," Gumpf added. "She deserves it, and has been our mainstay. She did a great job."
The Irish loaded the bases once again in the top half of the second inning, and a fielder's choice ground ball off the bat of Wester scored senior captain Chloe Saganowich to make it 1-0 Notre Dame. An RBI single one batter later by junior Katey Haus into left field scored classmate Jenna Simon, pushing the Irish advantage to 2-0. Sophomore Micaela Arizmendi broke the floodgates open with the bases still loaded, crushing a two-out grand slam deep and gone to right field, clearing the bags and upping the Notre Dame cushion to 6-0.
A three-up, three-down inning followed for Winter and the Irish in the bottom of the second, as Katie Johnsky flew out to center field and Morgan Taylor and Karly Fullem each struck out swinging to stall the Georgia Tech offense.
Georgia Tech broke through with its first hit of the game in the bottom of the third inning, as Maddie Lionberger laced a one-out single into center field off Winter. The Irish pitcher settled back in immediately, striking Thomas out swinging and forcing Downs to fly out to Wester in left field.
Winter helped her own cause in the top of the fourth, lacing a leadoff single down the right field line off Yellow Jacket reliever Cabrales. A fielder's choice off the bat of Arizmendi left pinch runner Monica Torres and Arizmendi safe on the base paths. Junior Cassidy Whidden made the most of the opportunity, crushing an RBI double off the wall in right center to make it 7-0 in favor of Notre Dame. A single to center field by sophomore Megan Sorlie plated Arizmendi for the second Irish run of the inning (8-0). A Saganowich sacrifice fly deep to center brought Whidden across to cap the three-run Notre Dame surge at 9-0.
The Irish career strikeout record fell in the bottom of the fourth inning, after a pair of Georgia Tech hits moved a Yellow Jacket runner into scoring position. Winter achieved strikeout 908 by getting Taylor to chase a swinging strike three. She added one more punch-out of pinch hitter Alexis Jones to hang another zero on the Georgia Tech side.
It was more Notre Dame offense in the top of the fifth, putting another three runs on the scoreboard. Singles from Wester and classmate Dana Bouquet opened the Notre Dame ups, and a walk issued to Arizmendi again loaded the bases full of Irish. Senior pinch hitter Lauren Stuhr also received a free pass, pushing Wester across to get Notre Dame into double digits in the run column (10-0). Freshman Kimmy Sullivan followed with a pinch-hit double to the gap in right center field, scoring Arizmendi and Bouquet to cap the Irish day at 12-0.
Georgia Tech went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth to finish out the contest, as Winter forced Jessica Kowalewicz to ground out back to the circle, Lionberger to ground out to sophomore Carly Piccinich at second base and Thomas to foul out to Wester in left field.
"To score 12 runs against Georgia Tech in five innings is not an easy thing, and we just stepped up and started hitting pitches we should be hitting," Gumpf said. "That was the difference today, we were hitting strike zone pitches and not chasing. We're a really good team when we do that."