May 1, 2013
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The University of Notre Dame softball team scored five runs over the final three innings, powered by two Laura Winter home runs, to cap a 6-1 non-conference win at Western Michigan Wednesday at Fran Ebert Field.
The Irish (39-11) improved to 13-1 in their last 14 games, and have won eight contests by four or more runs during the stretch.
Notre Dame took the early lead in the top of the first inning after Jenna Simon reached first on a fielding error before stealing second base to move into scoring position. A wild pitch from Western Michigan starter Becca Shemberger (7-16) pushed Simon to third base. An Amy Buntin sacrifice fly scored Simon and gave Notre Dame a 1-0 advantage.
Western Michigan (14-31) tied the contest in the bottom of the second, as a wild pitch to the backstop scored Colleen Lynch from third base (1-1). Brittany O’Donnell forced Melissa Palmer to fly out to center field to end the frame.
O’Donnell posted a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the third, forcing Diana Patterson to ground out to shortstop, Jenny Rohn to ground out to first base and Loren Nagy to pop up to second base.
Winter (25-9) made quick work of the Bronco order in the bottom of the fourth inning, striking out Lynch and Megan Stamm swinging before popping Caity Pixley up to Chloe Saganowich at shortstop.
Notre Dame loaded the bases against Shemberger in the top of the fifth, and made the most of the opportunity. Cassidy Whidden worked a four-pitch walk before stealing second base. Casey Africano then drew a 3-0 walk to give the Irish runners at first and second. A Kelsey Thornton infield single loaded the bags for Emilee Koerner. The sophomore outfielder grooved a 0-2 pitch over the head of MacKenzie Shepeck in left field, clearing the bases and vaulting Notre Dame in front 3-1.
Winter sat the Broncos down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning, striking out Christina Pigozzi and Shepeck swinging and inducing Palmer to ground back to the circle to end the Western Michigan threat.
Winter threw 26 strikes in her 29 pitches over three no-hit innings, walking none and striking out five Western Michigan batters.
The Irish pitcher aided her own cause in the top of the sixth, launching her 15th home run of the season to left field, extending the Notre Dame margin to 4-1. Winter went back-to-back in her next plate appearance in the top of the seventh, crushing a two-run blast to left that found its way onto the train tracks outside Fran Ebert Field to push the Irish edge to 6-1.
Koerner and Winter paced the Notre Dame lineup with two hits each, while Winter logged three RBI and Koerner added a pair of runs batted in. Koerner became the first player in Notre Dame program history to surpass the 20 doubles plateau in a single season, recording numbers 20 and 21 of 2013 on Tuesday.
Allie Rhodes worked a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning, inducing a pair of fly outs to right and left field before striking out pinch hitter Alyssa Prokos swinging to end the game.
Notre Dame closes its regular season with a three-game series against Louisville this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium. Saturday’s doubleheader, set for a tentative 4 p.m. start, will be televised live on ESPNU.