March 22, 2017
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A pair of standout performances by freshmen Madison Heide and Katie Marino in their home debuts set a strong tone for the University of Notre Dame softball team on Wednesday. A home run and three RBI for Heide, two RBI and three tremendous plays in the field by Marino, and a balanced team offensive attack paved the Irish way in an 11-3 win in five innings over Michigan State to open the 2017 home season at Melissa Cook Stadium.
How It Happened
Following a scoreless inning on the mound in the top of the first inning, Notre Dame (13-13) erupted on offense in the bottom of the opening frame. Karley Wester led off with a walk, took second with a stolen base and moved to third on an Ali Wester infield single. A Caitlyn Brooks walk loaded the bases for Morgan Reed, with which Reed ripped a two-run single through the left side to plate both Westers and vault the Irish ahead 2-0. An RBI double off the wall in left field by Katie Marino scored Brooks for the 3-0 Notre Dame edge. With the bases full later in the frame, Sara White worked a four-pitch walk for the RBI to push Notre Dame in front 4-0.
Katie Beriont worked around a walk to begin the top of the second to sit the Michigan State (15-8) lineup down from there. A 1-6-3 double play and groundout to second base that a diving Marino snagged in the 3-4 hole stalled the Spartan offensive.
Michigan State struck for its first run in the top of the third inning by way of a solo home run, trimming the Notre Dame lead to 4-1. Beriont quelled the surge with a groundout to the circle and a strikeout looking.
Notre Dame took a run back from Michigan State in the bottom of the third. Melissa Rochford was hit by a pitch and Marino walked to start the inning, with White earning another free pass to load the bases with one out. Maddie McCracken seized the RBI chance and rocked a base hit through the left side, scoring Rochford to extend the Irish cushion to 5-1.
Marino saved arguably her best two defensive plays for last to aid reliever Rachel Nasland in the top of the fourth inning. A foul ball curling toward the fence up the first base line was caught by the sliding Notre Dame second baseman Marino, punctuating a decisive second out. With a runner on first and two away, Marino stole another base hit with a diving stop to her left, stranding one Michigan State runner aboard.
Nasland briefly ran into trouble in the top of the fifth after a leadoff walk and RBI triple brought Michigan State within three at 5-2. A sacrifice fly for the second out managed to score the triple to inch the Spartans closer at 5-3. Nasland shook off a pulled slap single to right field by forcing a groundout to second to end the Michigan State rally.
The Spartans would not return to the plate, as Notre Dame ended the game emphatically in the bottom of the fifth stanza. White reached by way of an infield single to set the stage for Madison Heide, who entered to catch for Nasland in the fourth inning. Heide clobbered the ninth pitch of her first career home at-bat deep and gone for her first career home run, a two-run shot down the left field line that gave Notre Dame a comfortable 7-3 lead.
The productive inning for the Irish would continue. Karley Wester reached by way of an infield single, with Ali Wester also going aboard thanks to a fielder’s choice. Back-to-back walks issued to Brooks and Reed brought Karley Wester across for the eighth Notre Dame run (8-3). A Rochford hit by pitch and Marino single to right field added two more RBI and pushed Notre Dame to the verge of victory at 10-3. After White was issued her third walk of the game with two outs in the fifth, Heide drove a 1-2 offering up the middle for the walk-off RBI single that scored Rochford.
Notre Dame improved to 8-2 in home openers at Melissa Cook Stadium since the facility opened in 2008, and won for the fourth straight opener … Karley Wester moved into a tie with two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05) for the all-time hits lead at Notre Dame, as Wester notched career hit number 284 in the fifth inning against Michigan State … Madison Heide finished with two hits, including her first career home run, and three RBI during the fifth inning of her home debut – Heide is the first Notre Dame freshman to register a walk-off hit in the home opener of a season in Melissa Cook Stadium history … the freshman tandem of Heide and Katie Marino combined for a 4-for-5 day at the plate with a double, home run and five RBI as part of their home debut for Notre Dame … Morgan Reed chipped in her fourth multi-RBI game of the 2017 season, finishing the win over Michigan State with three runs batted in.
Head Coach Deanna Gumpf
On the importance of a strong home start against Michigan State…
“That’s a really good Michigan State team, and it just felt good to be home. We’ve been on the road a long time and we’ve had a lot of tough trips, playing 13 ranked teams you always wonder if it’s going to pay off or not. We’re going to let it pay off, and today it showed that it’s paying off. Michigan State’s starting pitcher (Bridgette Rainey) is tough and we did a great job attacking strikes, making her throw in the zone.”
On the tone set by solid defense throughout the game…
“(Karley Wester’s catch at the fence in center in the first) was a momentum shift, big time. Karley Wester robbing the home run and Katie Marino making plays makes them think wait a minute, we’re hitting the ball well and we’re not getting on base. That’s what they’re known for. They will hit the ball, and we stopped them.”
Thoughts on the home debuts of Katie Marino and Madison Heide…
“After the preseason, now they can take a deep breath a little bit and just play the game they know how to play. That’s what we’re seeing from Midge (Heide) and Maddie McCracken our other catcher, too, along with Katie.”
Freshman Infielder Katie Marino
On what makes her most proud, strong offensive or defensive performances…
“My defense. Defense is my favorite part of the game, so if I’m proud of anything it would definitely be defensively, how I play in the field.”
Changing the momentum of the game with stellar plays at second base…
“We’re a team that’s about momentum, and we’re really focused on getting momentum ourselves. Once we continued the momentum from the first inning into the rest of the game that was a huge part (of the game) for us.”
The feeling when the entire lineup comes together to contribute to a win…
“You’re just, proud. We’ve been working so hard and we have gotten knocked down a few times in the past week or so, but to come back the way we did today shows that we’re fighters and that we’re an amazing team. People should be ready for us.”
The Irish host Virginia Tech for a three-game ACC series on March 24-26 at Melissa Cook Stadium. Game one of the conference set is scheduled for a 6 p.m. (ET) first pitch on Friday live 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.