March 15, 2017
by Tony Jones
MACON, Ga. – A three-run top of the seventh inning provided the University of Notre Dame softball team with all the cushion it needed in a nonconference game against Mercer on Wednesday night. Three RBI from Melissa Rochford, three runs scored by Ali Wester, and a complete game thrown by Rachel Nasland was the difference in a 7-2 Irish victory on a chilly evening at Sikes Field.
How It Happened
Notre Dame (12-10) struck for two runs in the top of the first inning. Ali Wester slapped a one-out single up the middle, taking second base by way of a steal. Caitlyn Brooks walked on five pitches, leading to a Morgan Reed single that allowed Wester to score from second base following a Mercer error for a 1-0 Irish lead. Melissa Rochford ripped an RBI single to center that plated Brooks for the 2-0 Notre Dame edge.
Mercer pulled within one run in the bottom of the first inning after drawing a walk with the bases loaded, cutting the score to 2-1. Notre Dame starter Rachel Nasland forced flyouts to center and to left field to leave the bases full of Bears.
The Irish extended their lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third frame. With the bases loaded after an Ali Wester single, Brooks walk and Reed single, Rochford was hit by a pitch to push the Notre Dame advantage to 3-1. An RBI groundout off the bat of Chelsea Purcell brought home Reed (4-1).
Mercer clawed back for a run in the bottom of the third inning following an RBI fielder’s choice to third base, closing the deficit to 4-2. Nasland induced a fly ball out to left field to hold the Bears at bay.
Nasland fashioned a three-up, three-down stanza in the bottom of the fourth inning. A pair of strikeouts swinging and a ground ball out to Reed at second base capped the 1-2-3 frame for Notre Dame. Nasland continued her momentum in the bottom of the fifth, with a pair of foul ball outs to the left side and a swinging strikeout.
Notre Dame put the game away in the top of the seventh inning. Karley Wester ripped a leadoff single to left field, taking second base by way of a successful steal. After Ali Wester laid down an infield slap to third base, and errant throw by the Mercer defense cleared the bases and vaulted the Irish ahead 6-2. An RBI groundout to shortstop by Rochford later in the seventh scored Reed for a 7-2 Notre Dame advantage.
Nasland and the Irish defense iced the victory in the bottom of the seventh inning. A groundout to second base and a pair of foulouts to Rochford at third base were the difference in a final 1-2-3 frame.
Karley Wester surpassed three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) for the all-time Notre Dame softball runs record, scoring for the 197th time in her career during the top of the seventh inning against Mercer – Sister Ali Wester scored on the play following a four-base error by the Mercer defense … Wester also passed All-American Stephanie Brown (’07) for second place on the Irish career hits list with her 278th base knock at Notre Dame … Morgan Reed continued her torrid pace during Notre Dame’s Spring Break voyage, batting 3-for-4 for two runs scored against Mercer – Reed is hitting an even .500 (9-for-18) with two home runs, 10 RBI and seven runs scored in her last four games … By scoring three times in four plate appearances, Ali Wester extended her team lead on the current road trip to nine runs in her last four starts … Rachel Nasland earned her fourth victory in her last five outings, spinning a three-hit complete game with six strikeouts against Mercer. Nasland is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in her last six appearances (four starts).
The Irish travel to No. 1/2 Florida State for a three-game conference series this weekend in Tallahassee, Florida. Game one is set to begin on Friday at 6 p.m. (ET) inside JoAnne Graf Field on ACC Network Extra.
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.