April 18, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A total of 15 Virginia batters came to the plate in game one of Friday's Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader between the Cavaliers and the University of Notre Dame softball team at The Park.
Notre Dame senior pitcher Laura Winter made history the only way she can after four stellar seasons with the Irish, tossing her first career perfect game to lead No. 21/22 Notre Dame to an 8-0 win in five innings in the series lid lifter. The Irish added a 12-1 win in five frames during the nightcap to claim the conference series.
The day one sweep officially clinched Notre Dame's (28-9, 8-4 ACC) third ACC series in its inaugural season in the conference, and the Irish have now won five of their last six league contests overall. Notre Dame, the league leader with a .350 team batting average, has scored double-digit runs nine times in 2014, adding double-digit hit efforts in an additional 19 games.
"Today's games were two really good wins for our program," Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. "Anytime you win a series against another ACC team it's good for your program. I take nothing for granted with Virginia, they have come back and beaten a number of good teams, they are not afraid of coming back. They fight and claw their way back, they are a good hitting team."
Winter (17-4) struck out nine Virginia (6-37, 1-21 ACC) batters in five full innings of work, hurling only 51 pitches in the complete game effort. It was the 100th victory of her Notre Dame career, leaving Winter standing alone as the first pitcher in program history to surpass the century mark.
"Being backed up in the field obviously helped," Winter said. "A perfect game is a complete team effort. Everything was working, and it was nice to have a go-to pitch every time. If a hitter was on a rise-ball, I was going to throw something else. It was nice to have a backup just in case."
Winter's perfect game was also just the third in the 26-year history of Notre Dame softball, and the first since Heather Booth struck out four Rutgers hitters in a 8-0 win in five innings on April 23, 2006. Terri Kobata (six innings, 11 strikeouts) was the first perfect Irish pitcher after blanking Loyola-Chicago 5-0 on May 12, 1994 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament.
"How cool is that for (Laura)? Every single pitch was good," Gumpf said. "She had one miss on the day, and she acknowledged it immediately. She was in the zone, and when you're in the zone things are clicking. When things are clicking they go well."
"It's really awesome, especially with this group of girls, it really makes a difference," Winter said. "I'm really glad that they could experience it as well."
The Notre Dame ace excelled at the plate during the twin bill as well, as Winter batted .600 (3-for-5) with a double, a home run and a team-high six RBI. Sophomore Micaela Arizmendi added a pair of doubles, a home run and three RBI, while freshman Karley Wester contributed a triple and three RBI. Arizmendi and juniors Katey Haus and Jenna Simon paced Notre Dame with three runs each.
"When we get off to an early start, it gives our pitching, our defense, a little time to take a breath," Gumpf said. "That changes everything. It made today a lot better.
"It has been hard to make a lineup, because we have so many good hitters coming up," Gumpf added. "Lauren (Stuhr) has been seeing the ball well, Casey (Africano) has been seeing the ball well, Megan (Sorlie) has been seeing the ball well, and when those three see the ball, anything can happen. It just changes our lineup dramatically."
Notre Dame and Virginia will close the weekend set on Saturday with the final game of the series scheduled to begin at noon (ET) at The Park. The Irish will look for their second league sweep of the ACC season.
"I think the team understands how crucial every ACC game is because we have had seven taken away due to weather," Gumpf said. "When you have seven games taken away from you every game after is so crucial, and they get that. We are working so hard to win."
Game One - #21 Notre Dame 8, Virginia 0 (five innings)
Senior Laura Winter saw one pitch from Chapdelaine before depositing a 1-0 offering over the fence down the left field line later in the top of the first inning, clearing the bases with a three-run shot that extended the Notre Dame cushion to 5-0.
"Everything really was clicking at the plate, and I just took it one pitch at a time," Winter said of her three-hit day during the doubleheader. "I felt like I was really able to see the ball well."
Winter worked a perfect bottom of the first inning against the Virginia lineup. Heidi Velk and Iyana Hughes each struck out swinging, and Lindsay Mayer hit a sharp lineout to senior captain Chloe Saganowich at shortstop to end the frame.
It was three-up, three-down for the Cavaliers once more in the bottom of the second. Winter punctuated the scoreless inning by striking Megan Harris out swinging on three straight pitches for the third and final out.
Winter struck out four straight Virginia hitter before Hughes blasted a 0-2 pitch to straightaway center field in the bottom of the fourth inning. Koerner was able to track the ball down a few steps short of the wall for a loud out number two. Winter then popped Mayer up to Saganowich at short to end the inning.
After Haus reached on an error to open the top of the fifth, Arizmendi ripped her second double of the day, this time off the wall in left center, to move Haus to third base. An RBI ground ball to second base by Winter pushed Haus across, making it 6-0 Notre Dame. Junior Cassidy Whidden followed one pitch later with a no doubt shot over the fence in left center, clearing the bases with a two-run home run (8-0).
Winter capped off the perfect game with one more three-up, three-down inning in the bottom of the fifth. Madison Labshere struck out swinging to lead off the frame, Katie Park flew out to senior Lauren Stuhr in right field and Harris struck out swinging to end the game.
Game Two - #21 Notre Dame 12, Virginia 1 (five innings)
Virginia picked up its first two hits of the day in the bottom of the first against Irish starter Allie Rhodes. Rhodes maintained in the face of the adversity, grounding Katie Park out to Simon at second base to strand a pair of Cavalier runners on base.
Rhodes flexed her pitching acumen in the bottom of the second inning, striking out Taylor Sarcone and Kinza Baad swinging to end the frame.
Emilee Koerner roped her team-leading 17th double of the season off the right field wall with one out in the top of the third, advancing Simon to third base. Koerner became just the third player in Notre Dame program history to reach the 50 career double plateau on the play. An RBI single to center field by Haus plated Simon to up the Notre Dame lead to 3-0. Arizmendi immediately followed with a hard-hit single up the box, scoring Koerner to make it 4-0 Irish.
A double down the left field line by Laura Winter one batter later scored both Haus and pinch runner Monica Torres, extending the Irish cushion to 6-0. Cassidy Whidden drew a full-count walk, and a Chloe Saganowich grounder to left side advanced Winter to third base. Lauren Stuhr then chipped in her second extra base hit of the series, lining an RBI two-bagger down the left field line that scored Winter (7-0). Wester capped the inning's scoring with her second career triple, dropping the ball perfectly over the head of the left fielder Velk to clear the bags once more and make it 9-0 Notre Dame.
Virginia broke through for its first run of the day in the bottom of the third inning. Lindsay Mayer located a perfect two-out single in left field off Irish reliever Rachel Nasland (5-1) to get the Cavaliers on the board at 9-1.
Arizmendi went deep and gone off Chapdelaine in the top of the fourth, crushing her team-high ninth home run to straightway center field, extending the Notre Dame lead to 10-1. Nasland worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the fourth inning in the circle after the solo home run, striking out Megan Harris and Baad swing to retire the Cavaliers in order in the home half.
Notre Dame tacked on two additional runs in the top of the fifth inning. An RBI groundout by Wester, and an RBI single for sophomore Carly Piccinich into the gap in right center field pushed the final Irish run count to 12-1.