April 9, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A solid game one pitching performance, and constant offensive pressure throughout the day vaulted the University of Notre Dame softball team to 6-0 and 11-6 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) victories on Wednesday over North Carolina at Anderson Stadium. The Irish claimed the first ACC series sweep in program history, improving to 5-3 in conference play with their third straight league win.
No. 23/25 Notre Dame (24-8, 5-3 ACC) held a 24-7 advantage in hits over the Tar Heels, which included six doubles and five home runs. The Irish added three successful stolen bases in three attempts.
Head Coach Deanna Gumpf moved within one win of tying former baseball coach Paul Mainieri for second all-time in baseball/softball wins at Notre Dame with career victory number 532. Gumpf’s squads have averaged nearly 41 wins per season during her 13-year tenure.
“That second game was really tough because we got in a hole, and we had to dig deep,” Gumpf said. “I was really proud of the way our offense came out and just wouldn’t quit. They hit inside pitches, outside pitches, they made things happen the entire day, and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. That’s exactly where we want to be at this point in the season.”
Junior Cassidy Whidden paced the Notre Dame offense with a 5-for-7 (.714) series, chipping in three home runs, four RBI and four runs scored. Freshman Karley Wester added five base hits, two stolen bases and three runs.
“When I see a bunch of pitches, and Jenna (Simon) sees a bunch of pitches, and Emi (Koerner), it just lets the whole team know what’s going to happen next,” Wester said of the top of the Irish lineup.
Eight of the nine Notre Dame starters recorded at least one hit during the doubleheader, with six contributing multi-hit efforts.
“Today was a great day because we didn’t have any weaknesses in the lineup,” Gumpf said. “You saw different people do different things throughout the day, and that was good to see. Cassidy hit three home runs on three different pitches, in, out and change. That says how well she is seeing the ball, and she’s worked really hard to put herself in a good place up to bat.”
Senior pitcher Laura Winter (15-4) earned the win in game one of the doubleheader, surrendering one hit in a complete game effort, striking out seven North Carolina batters. Winter also started the evening’s second game, tossing 3.1 innings before exiting. Sophomore Allie Rhodes (5-3) posted 3.2 innings of two-run softball the rest of the way to pick up the game two win.
Game One – #23 Notre Dame 6, North Carolina 0
Karley Wester led off the game with a five-pitch walk against Tar Heel pitcher Lori Spingola (15-10). Junior Jenna Simon laid down what was a perfect attempted sacrifice bunt, and reached safely on the play. Due to fielder indifference, Wester advanced all the way home from first base, while Simon moved into second base, giving Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
“We’re always working as a team to take two bases,” Wester said. “When I was going into second base, I saw the third baseman hadn’t even thrown the ball yet, so I took off for third. Coach (Gumpf) said down, and after I slid I looked up and there was nobody at home plate. So I just took it, just kept going.”
“The way Wester plays, she lights a fire under us,” Gumpf said. “The team responds very well to her fire.”
After Simon stole third base, junior All-American Emilee Koerner hit a towering sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Simon to extend the Irish cushion to 2-0.
Laura Winter threw a perfect 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning against the Tar Heel order. Aquilla Mateen grounded out back to the circle, Amy Nece lined out to junior Katey Haus at third base and Kristen Brown flew out to sophomore Casey Africano in right field to end the inning.
Winter posted a second straight scoreless frame in the bottom of the second, erasing a leadoff single from North Carolina’s Jenna Kelly. Amber Parrish reached on a fielder’s choice, but pinch runner Stephanie Krider was thrown out at second base by the catcher Whidden for the second out of the inning. Winter froze Kati Causey looking for strike three to end the Tar Heel half.
Notre Dame opened the top of the third inning with a Winter double into the gap in left center field, her 10th of the season. Spingola maintained, retiring the next three Irish hitters in order to stall the offensive momentum.
Wester began the fourth inning with her second infield single of the day, slapping a challenging single to shortstop. A perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line by Simon moved Wester into scoring position at second base. Koerner promptly cashed in on the RBI opportunity, sending a two-run home run to center field that gave Notre Dame a 4-0 advantage.
“(The key was) just putting the ball in play, keep it simple,” Wester said. “Nice and easy, get on base and let the rest of the team do their work. It’s a team effort.”
It was 1-2-3 for North Carolina (21-18, 12-7 ACC) again in the bottom of the fifth. A pair of Tar Heel fly outs and a strikeout of Causey looking slammed the door on the hosts for the fifth straight inning.
Whidden crushed the first pitch she saw from Spingola in the top of the sixth inning, driving a leadoff solo shot well beyond the wall in straightaway center to up the Irish lead to 5-0.
A two-out double off the bat of sophomore Micaela Arizmendi, one of her three doubles during the game that tied a Notre Dame program record, kept the Irish offense rolling in the top of the seventh inning. Winter delivered for her own cause one batter later, roping a single to right field that plated Arizmendi and made it 6-0 Irish.
Game Two – #23 Notre Dame 11, North Carolina 6
North Carolina took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning in game two, as Kristen Brown blasted a solo home run deep to left field to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead. Laura Winter grounded Jenna Kelly out to shortstop for the third and final out to escape the jam.
A second solo home run from Amber Parrish in the bottom of the second made it 2-0 in favor of North Carolina. Winter retired the next three batters in the Tar Heel half, striking out Tracy Chandless swinging and Jordan Scarboro looking to thwart any further damage.
Cassidy Whidden brought Notre Dame back within one run in the top of the third inning, grooving her second solo home run of the day, this time off North Carolina pitcher Kendra Lynch, to make the score 2-1. A follow-up single by senior captain Chloe Saganowich and a sacrifice bunt from Casey Africano moved the lead runner into scoring position. Back-to-back outs left the tying run stranded at third.
Parrish connected on her second long ball of the game in the bottom of the fourth, chasing Winter with a two-run home run to left center field (4-1). Reliever Allie Rhodes retired the final two North Carolina batters to end the home half of the frame.
Consecutive singles from Winter and Whidden gave Notre Dame a pair of runners in the top of the fifth inning. An RBI double off the wall off the bat of Saganowich scored pinch runner Monica Torres from second, bringing the Irish within two runs at 4-2. A sacrifice fly from Africano to left field allowed Whidden to tag up, scoring the third Notre Dame run of the game (4-3). Karley Wester then sliced an RBI single off reliever Lauren Batten (4-4) to plate Saganowich from second base and tie the contest at 4-4.
North Carolina took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth inning, as an RBI groundout from Amy Nece scored Erin Satterfield to put the Tar Heels in front at 5-4. A solo home run from Brown added an additional run to the lead, ending the fifth with North Carolina in front 6-4.
Katey Haus kick started the Notre Dame ups in the top of the sixth with a double into the right field corner. A hard single into left field off the bat of Micaela Arizmendi scored pinch runner Carly Piccinich from second and brought the Irish within one run (6-5). Whidden continued her phenomenal day at the plate, turning on a 0-2 Batten pitch and depositing it over the fence in left, vaulting Notre Dame in front 7-6 with her second home run of the game.
A four-pitch walk issued to North Carolina’s Parrish began the bottom of the sixth inning, but Rhodes worked masterfully out of the jam. The Irish southpaw forced three straight ground ball outs to sit the remainder of the Tar Heel lineup down in order.
A Wester single up the middle gave the Irish left fielder her second hit of the ballgame, and her fifth hit of the doubleheader, to lead off the Notre Dame seventh. A full-count walk issued to Jenna Simon following a Wester stolen base added the second Irish runner to the base paths. Emilee Koerner then dropped a perfect sneaky bunt in front of the plate, and a throwing error on North Carolina catcher Parrish scored both Wester and Simon to extend the Notre Dame lead to 9-6.
Following a wild pitch that moved Koerner to third base, Arizmendi slapped an RBI groundout to shortstop to push across another Irish run and make it 10-6. Winter followed with a moon shot solo home run to left field off the Anderson Stadium scoreboard against Tar Heel reliever Ashley Bone for the final Notre Dame run (11-6).
All North Carolina could muster was an infield single to open the bottom of the seventh inning, as Satterfield contributed a base hit back to the circle. Rhodes retired the final three Tar Heel batters in order, with Brown grounding out to the circle for the third and final out of the inning to end the game.
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant