March 16, 2014
BLACKSBURG, Va. – An offensive barrage to the tune of 14 hits and nine runs, with five runs scoring in the top of the sixth inning, carried the University of Notre Dame softball team to a 9-5 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday in the final game of the weekend Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series.
The Irish nearly surpassed their combined hit total of 15 from the first two games of the series, and exceeded their run count of six from Saturday’s contests. A pair of home runs also gave No. 22 Notre Dame (19-7, 3-3 ACC) its fifth multi home run game of the season.
Freshman Karley Wester got the Irish offense going in the top of the first inning, slapping a hard single and stealing second base. After junior Katey Haus flew out to right field, Wester took advantage of a Virginia Tech lapse on defense by advancing to third base without a throw. Hokies starter Maggie Tyler forced sophomore Micaela Arizmendi to fly out to defensive sub Kat Banks in right field to end the threat.
Virginia Tech (13-12, 4-4 ACC) took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, as a pair of infield errors allowed the Hokies to push a run across on only one hit. Sophomore starter Allie Rhodes forced Elizabeth Birle to pop out to junior Jenna Simon behind second base to close the inning.
Notre Dame took the lead in the top of the second for the first time, as a squeeze bunt from senior captain Chloe Saganowich scored pinch runner Monica Torres from third base to tie the contest at 1-1. Following a Saganowich steal of second, an RBI single into center field by Simon scored classmate Cassidy Whidden from third base to give the Irish a 2-1 cushion.
Simon paced the Irish offense with three base hits on the afternoon, adding an RBI, two stolen bases and a run scored. Wester, Whidden, Haus and senior Laura Winter each contributed two hits apiece.
Virginia Tech’s Kylie McGoldrick moved into scoring position in the bottom of the second inning with a steal of second base, but Rhodes froze Amanda Ake check-swinging on a 3-2 offering for the frame-ending punch-out.
Whidden left zero doubt on the second pitch she saw from Kelly Heinz (7-8) in the top of the fourth inning, crushing a 1-0 offering over the deepest part of the wall in center field for a monster solo home run that extended the Notre Dame advantage to 3-1.
Virginia Tech climbed back into the contest with a two-run single into right field in the bottom of the fourth by Vanessa Gonzalez that ran Rhodes. Winter (13-3) popped Dani Anderson out to center field two batters later to strand three Hokies on the bags.
Haus unloaded on the first pitch she saw from Heinz in the top of fifth inning, driving a solo shot inside the fair pole to vault the Irish back in front 4-3. Heinz settled in and retired the final two Notre Dame outs on fly balls, with a Winter single to left in between, to end the rally.
Winter mowed Virginia Tech down in the bottom half of the fifth, flying Bailey Liddle out to left and striking out Birle swinging and Kat Banks looking to storm out of the inning and make it an official game.
Winter moved into a tie with Heather Booth (’06) for the Notre Dame career wins record with her 96th victory, improving to 13-3 on the season. She surrendered two earned over 3.1 innings out of the bullpen, striking out five Virginia Tech batters.
The Irish loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning, as three straight singles off Heinz put ducks on the pond with nobody out. Junior All-American Emilee Koerner came through with a huge RBI double to the gap in right center field, scoring a pair of runs to up the cushion to 6-3. A groundout to short one batter later by Wester pushed Koerner to third and scored Simon (7-3). A passed ball charged to catcher Katey Smith allowed Koerner to come in for the fourth Notre Dame run of the inning (8-3). Winter kept the hit parade rolling, grooving a two-out double to the gap in right center that scored Haus and capped the inning’s scoring at 9-3.
It was more of the same from Winter in the bottom of the sixth, as a pair of strikeouts and a McGoldrick groundout to shortstop kept the Virginia Tech bats quiet in the inning.
Smith began the rally for the Hokies in the bottom of the seventh, blasting a two-run homer over the left center field wall to cut the gap to 9-5. A double play ground out to Haus at third with a pair of runners on retired the first two Virginia Tech outs of the inning, and a Winter strikeout of pinch hitter Michelle Prong shut the door for good.
Notre Dame is scheduled to host its first ACC series next weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium, welcoming Pittsburgh for a three-game league set. First pitch on Saturday is set for noon (ET).