May 11, 2017
by Tony Jones
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – If the three games that took place last weekend between the University of Notre Dame softball team and Boston College were any indication, fans were in for a treat on the opening day of the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Softball Championship. Battling from an early deficit for the third time in four meetings with the Eagles, Notre Dame scored the final seven runs to outlast Boston College 9-5 in eight innings on Thursday during the inaugural round of the ACC tournament at Anderson Stadium.
How It Happened
Boston College (31-22) took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after a passed ball and fielding error by the Notre Dame defense brought both Eagle runs across. Three straight fly ball outs for Irish starter Katie Beriont ended the Boston College ups.
Notre Dame (33-20) tied the game in the top of the third. Ali Wester slapped an infield single to shortstop, and moved to third base on a Morgan Reed double to the gap in left center. With two outs in the inning, Kimmy Sullivan ripped a two-run single down the right field line, scoring Reed and Melissa Rochford to tie the game at 2-2.
A triple and pair of RBI singles vaulted Boston College back in front at 4-2 in the bottom half of the third frame. Beriont ultimately stranded two runners on the bases with a groundout to second base.
Rachel Nasland entered in relief in the bottom of the fourth and raced through the Boston College order 1-2-3. Three outs on the infield held the Eagle order at bay.
After a solo home run pushed Boston College ahead 5-2 after five innings, Notre Dame locked down and took command of the game. Sullivan began the rally with a triple into center field, and ultimately came home on a Madison Heide RBI single to shortstop to trim the deficit to 5-3 in the top of the sixth.
A three-up, three-down effort for Nasland in the Boston College sixth set the stage for the tying Irish runs in the top of the seventh. Ali Wester reached by way of a walk to open the inning, setting the table for Caitlyn Brooks. Brooks crushed a 1-0 pitch deep and gone to straightaway center with one out, and her seventh home run of the season tied the game at 5-5 and sent the contest to extra innings following a perfect bottom of the inning from Nasland.
Notre Dame blew the game open in the top of the eighth for its first lead of the day. Katie Marino reached by way of a Boston College throwing error to lead off the stanza, and aggressively moved all the way to third base on a Sara White sacrifice bunt. Heide was hit by a pitch with one out, and Boston College elected to intentionally walk Karley Wester to load the bases and initiate the force at any base. A five-pitch walk to Ali Wester spoiled the Eagles plans, and the free RBI plated Marino for the 6-5 Notre Dame edge.
The Irish were not done in the sequence, as a Reed RBI single to left field and subsequent throwing error brought home both Heide and Karley Wester for the 8-5 advantage. Brooks fought off a difficult 0-2 offering and pulled an RBI base knock into left field one batter later, bringing Ali Wester home to close the four-run inning with Notre Dame ahead 9-5.
That was all the cushion Nasland and the Notre Dame defense would need. A sharp leadoff single down the left field line was quickly erased by Nasland, who called her own number by showing some range on a shallow popup to turn a 1-3 double play. A flyout to right field ended the game.
Head Coach Deanna Gumpf
“It kind of played out the way last weekend played out with them as well. It’s just kind of a barn burner, things happen. I thought we were a little sluggish early. I didn’t like the way we looked in the first couple innings of the game, and I thought that we kind of let things happen to us. That’s pretty uncharacteristic because usually in the first we’re pretty darn good. That was a bummer to get started on the wrong foot, but as the game went on we kept getting better and better. I think that’s a great sign for the postseason. I’m just proud of the team. They fought like heck and made things happen.”
Mindset entering extra-innings…
“(I told them) Nothing changes. One pitch at a time. When we play our best we don’t worry about the result. We don’t worry about what’s already happened. We just focus on that next pitch.”
Designated Player Caitlyn Brooks
On her game-tying home run in the seventh inning…
“I was just thinking base hit. We had a runner on base so I just wanted to get something started and keep the inning going and try and produce something.”
On the shift in momentum into extras…
“I definitely felt the momentum change. We’re really big on momentum. We want to keep getting the momentum on our side and building it. I think we did that and that was the start of it.”
Pitcher Rachel Nasland
When she entered in relief in the fourth inning…
“I wasn’t trying to look ahead too much just because we had played them over the weekend. It was a battle all weekend, so I tried not to think about last weekend and focus on the pitch I got and throw it to the best spot.”
On her teammates backing her up in the circle…
“Our defense was on point today. I think that relieves a lot of pressure for a pitcher. I wasn’t worried when the ball was put in play. They covered all kind of ground, especially our outfield. That was nice because we got a lot of popups.”
Notre Dame and top-seeded Florida State meet in the semifinal round of the 2017 ACC Softball Championship on Friday at Anderson Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. First pitch between the Irish and Seminoles is set for 1 p.m. (ET) on the Regional Sports Network (RSN).
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.
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 Monroe and with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.