May 20, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Kentucky pitcher Chanda Bell limited to No. 19 Notre Dame to a pair of hits while leading the 21st-ranked Wildcats to an 8-0, five-inning win over Notre Dame to open the NCAA Softball Tournament Friday at Michigan's Alumni Field. Bell recorded her seventh shutout on the year and was backed by a defense that made big play after big play to leave three Notre Dame runners stranded in scoring position.
Bell (14-6) did the deed while issuing one walk and did not strike out a single Irish batter.
The Irish (45-10) dropped back-to-back games for the third time on the season and will now play the loser of Friday evening's matchup between top-seeded Michigan and Western Michigan. The elimination contest will begin at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday and will be televised live on ESPN.
After losing in the BIG EAST Conference Championship semifinals by a 6-0 count to Louisville last week, Notre Dame suffered consecutive shutout losses for the first time since the opening weekend of the 2009 season.
Notre Dame, the Ann Arbor Region's second-seeded squad, started its 16th NCAA appearance having to work from behind but was never able to gain enough offensive momentum to overcome an early deficit.
The third-seeded Wildcats (37-14), one of seven Southeastern Conference teams in the NCAA Tournament, used a one-out double from Kara Dill and a Meagan Aull single in the first to put two runners in scoring position for Brittany Cervantes. Cervantes was patient enough to draw a rare walk from Laura Winter (23-4) and Kentucky took advantage when Samantha DeMartine drove in two runs with a two-out single to left.
Kentucky came out swinging its sticks and was all over Winter's first-pitch strike offerings, totaling 11 hits in the contest.
Winter gave up nine hits and five earned runs through the first two innings and change, leaving two runners on base before giving way to Brittany O'Donnell.
Erin Marrone was the first Irish player to reach base, touching first on a second-inning walk.
The Irish were in no position to walk Cervantes in the third after surrendering a Rachel Riley single to start the frame. Cervantes made them pay with a two-run homer to extend the Kentucky lead to 4-0.
O'Donnell gave up an infield single in the fifth along with a two-out, two-run homer by Megan Yocke to make it an 8-0 game.
Brianna Jorgensborg was hit by pitch for a 13th time this season and eventually moved to third on Alexa Maldonado's infield single. Later in the third, Maldonado moved to second when Kentucky booted the ball on the play and both runners were left in scoring position when Bell induced a pair of popups.
Kentucky was as aggressive on the paths as it was at the plate in the fourth, scoring for a sixth time when Dill legged to home from second on a double-play ball by Riley.
Sadie Pitzenberger batted in the four spot for the first time in her career and came through with a double down the rightfield line to start the fourth for the Irish. Notre Dame failed to cash in on a potential run once again when pinch-runner Kelsey Thornton was called out for leaving the bag early on Marrone's flyout to center.