May 7, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Facing a six-run deficit in the sixth inning the University of Notre Dame softball team responded with seven runs in the final two frames, including four in the bottom of the seventh, to stun NC State with a 15-14 walk-off win on Saturday at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Wolfpack ultimately scored three runs in the sixth inning of the nightcap to split an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) doubleheader with the Irish by way of a 6-5 final.
No. 19/21 Notre Dame (38-10, 12-7 ACC) and NC State (23-32, 6-17 ACC) put on a tremendous offensive display as the teams combined for 40 runs on 51 hits during the doubleheader. The 29 combined runs scored in Notre Dame's game one victory is believed to be an Irish program record for the largest run output by both teams in a single game in team history.
Caitlyn Brooks was the standout hitter for Notre Dame throughout the twin bill, closing Saturday 5-for-7 with three doubles, a home run, seven RBI and a pair of runs scored against NC State. Co-captain Karley Wester added four hits, including a crucial double in the game one final inning rally and two RBI, stole three bases and scored six total runs. Micaela Arizmendi chipped in five key RBI, while Ali Wester added three hits and three runs scored.
Notre Dame and NC State will collide in the series rubber match on Sunday at noon (ET) in the final regular season game of the 2016 season. The Senior Day contest from Melissa Cook Stadium will air live on WatchND.
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.
NC State looked to put the game away once and for all in the top of the sixth inning clinging to a 9-8 lead. A solo home run to center by Maggie Hawkins and a grand slam against the wind into the left field bleachers by Tyler Ross with two outs catapulted the Wolfpack to a 14-8 lead. Sara White (2-0) closed the inning by inducing a Molly Hutchison ground out to shortstop.
The fireworks for Notre Dame began in the bottom of the sixth inning. Karley Wester worked a leadoff walk and safely stole second base, where a Micaela Arizmendi RBI single up the middle cut the Irish deficit to five at 14-9. An NC State fielding error kept the inning rolling with two away on a hard-hit ball later in the stanza, which allowed Morgan Reed to clear the bases with a two-run double that scored Caitlyn Brooks and Kimmy Sullivan to carry Notre Dame back within three at 14-11.
Notre Dame capped the stunning comeback with four more runs in the home half of the seventh inning. Megan Sorlie walked to lead off the frame and came all the way around to score on an RBI double to the gap by Karley Wester two batters later, drawing the Irish within two runs at 14-12. An illegal pitch on what looked to be an out not only advanced Karley Wester to third base one batter later, but gave Ali Wester new life after a pop out. Ali Wester wound up walking on four official pitches to set the stage for Arizmendi, who did not disappoint with a two-run double to left center field that tied the game for the first time at 14-14. After Mirabella walked Brooks on four straight pitches, Sullivan drove a walk-off single through the right side to score Arizmendi and complete the improbable comeback.
NC State wasted little time finding its offensive groove with three home runs in the top of the first inning, the most devastating a grand slam by Hawkins to open a 6-0 lead. Katie Beriont entered in relief and struck out Molly Martin looking and lined Ross out to third base to escape the Wolfpack barrage.
NC State would add an insurance run in the top of the second after a Notre Dame passed ball and wild pitch brought Meredith Burroughs home for the 7-0 NC State advantage.
Notre Dame came out firing in the bottom of the second frame against Courtney Mirabella (13-16) and nearly took the lead. Brooks began the rally with a solo home run to right field that cut the NC State lead to 7-1. A Sullivan single up the middle two batters later set the table for Casey Africano, who clocked an RBI base hit of her own for the second Notre Dame run (7-2). Africano ultimately scored thanks to a one-out Bailey Bigler sacrifice fly to right, inching the Irish ever closer at 7-3. Karley Wester was hit by a pitch and Ali Wester slapped a single to load the bases with two outs later in the inning, where Arizmendi worked a walk with the bags full to score Sorlie (7-4). Brooks registered her second huge hit of the inning immediately after, clubbing a two-run double to the right center field gap that scored both Westers to cut the NC State cushion to just one at 7-6.
NC State answered the rally with a two-spot in the top of the third inning by way of a Hutchison two-run single up the middle that scored Martin and Macauley Prickett to put the Wolfpack in front 9-6. Beriont worked out of the jam by flying Hanna Sommer out to center field to leave the bases loaded.
The Irish would rally once more in the bottom of the fourth inning. Bigler kicked things off with an artful bunt single up the third base line, and a Karley Wester single to third base moved Bigler into scoring position at second. Once more in a big spot with two outs, Brooks again delivered a two-run double to right center off Harli Hubbard that cleared the bases and closed the Notre Dame deficit to just one once more at 9-8.
Notre Dame was the aggressor to open game two in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a Karley Wester topped single in front of the plate and a stolen base at second. A throwing error on NC State catcher Molly Hutchison gave Wester third base, where an RBI groundout to second base by Micaela Arizmendi provided the Irish an early 1-0 lead.
The Wolfpack countered with three runs that all came with two outs in the top of the second inning, the last an RBI single from Maggie Hawkins to plate Tyler Ross for the 3-1 NC State advantage. Rachel Nasland (13-3) flew Hanna Sommer out to center field for the frame's third and final out.
NC State's lead would not last long, with both Wester sisters reaching via a walk and subsequently stealing second base in the bottom of the third inning. A walk issued to Arizmendi chased Brittany Nimmo and brought Harli Hubbard (5-7) on in relief. Caitlyn Brooks greeted Hubbard with a two-run single down the right field line, scoring Karley Wester and Ali Wester to tie the contest at 3-3.
Nasland notched a scoreless top of the fourth inning with three straight outs to give Notre Dame the opportunity to re-take the lead in the bottom of that inning. A Bailey Bigler RBI double and a Karley Wester RBI single off Hubbard shot the Irish back in front 5-3.
Hutchison redeemed herself for two early throwing errors by depositing a three-run home run over the right center field fence in the top of the sixth inning, putting NC State on top for good at 6-5. Notre Dame would move the tying run into scoring positon in both the sixth and seventh innings but were unable to complete the rally.
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 at Monroe and with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.