April 14, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A three-run bottom of the first inning set the stage for the University of Notre Dame softball team during the nightcap of the eighth annual Strikeout Cancer celebration at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish scored in five of their six trips to the plate in game two on Saturday to take a 9-5 victory over Duke.
Notre Dame (28-15, 11-6 ACC) capped its annual Strikeout Cancer weekend with the win in Saturday’s nightcap of the twin bill, a weekend which saw the program raise over $46,000 to directly benefit pediatric cancer patients in the state of Indiana. The total amount raised over the eight years of the initiative has climbed to nearly $300,000 in funds for children and families stricken by cancer.
How It Happened
Following a Duke (23-22, 8-10 ACC) RBI double in the top of the first inning, Notre Dame broke out with an aggressive bottom of the first. Abby Sweet drew a four-pitch walk and moved to second base by way of a sacrifice bunt. A Katie Marino infield single to second base cycled Sweet to third base. Sweet ultimately scored on a Duke throwing error to tie the game at 1-1. An RBI groundout from Melissa Rochford and an RBI single to right field from Sara White gave the Irish a 3-1 lead.
After Duke squared the game at 3-3 in the top of the second, Notre Dame stormed back into the lead once more. Alexis Bazos singled through the right side, and with an extreme shift that brought the right fielder to the left side of the infield Ali Wester tripled to the gap in right center. The clutch RBI hit brought Bazos home and made it 4-3 Irish. Marino followed with an RBI double to left center to make it 5-3 Notre Dame.
Both teams traded runs during the third inning, with Notre Dame holding on to its two-run lead. Rochford doubled down the right field line, and MK Bonamy brought her home with a sharp RBI single up the middle for the 6-4 Irish advantage.
Cait Brooks (1-0) entered the circle in relief in the top of the fourth and proceeded to shut the Duke order down for the remainder of the contest. A hit aside in the fourth and fifth frames for Duke were erased by stellar play in the field for the Irish infield.
Notre Dame tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Rochford reached by way of an error to set the table for White. White clubbed her sixth home run of the season over the fence in left, as the vapor trail blast pushed the Irish ahead 8-4.
Duke clawed a run back to trim the deficit to 8-5 in the top of the sixth, but with the tying run at the plate Brooks stood up to the challenge. A strikeout looking with two on the bases sat the Blue Devils down.
A pair of Duke errors provided Notre Dame with its final run of the day in the bottom of the sixth inning. Wester reached on a throwing error to lead off the frame and took second on the play. After cleanly stealing third base, Wester was able to score when the throw soared into left field for the 9-5 Irish edge.
A lone infield single for Duke was quickly erased in the top of the seventh. A great grab by Marino on a lineout to shortstop provided the finishing touches on the game.
Katie Beriont (11-5) worked around a leadoff walk to retire the Duke order in the top of the first inning of game one. Flyouts to each corner of the outfield sat down the Blue Devil side.
It was a three-up, three-down inning for Beriont and the Notre Dame defense in the top of the second. A swinging strikeout for the third out ended the frame.
Duke touched the Irish defense up for four runs in the top of the third inning to chase Beriont from the game. Morgan Ryan came on in relief and picked up the final two outs of the third.
The Blue Devils tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the fourth inning, but Cait Brooks entered in relief and tossed three innings of one-hit softball.
Notre Dame threw a run on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning to break into the run column. Following back-to-back walks to load the bases, Melissa Rochford scored Abby Sweet with an infield single behind the bag at second base.
Rochford chipped in her second RBI of the day in the bottom of the seventh frame, lacing a run scoring single up the chute to score Katie Marino.
Notre Dame resumes midweek play against Western Michigan on Tuesday at Melissa Cook Stadium.
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, men's soccer and swimming and diving 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.