May 19, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - The final pitch of Notre Dame's two games Saturday at Hillenbrand Stadium was delivered at 2:11 a.m. (ET). But all that mattered to the Irish softball team was that it resulted in a win.
Hours after falling to host Arizona, 7-2, Notre Dame battled back from a 3-1 deficit to North Dakota State and rallied with a five-run sixth inning to earn an 8-4 win.
Notre Dame (40-15) will have to knock off 13th-seeded Arizona (37-17) twice to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals. The Irish and Wildcats meet at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday with the contest set to be televised live on ESPNU. An if-necessary contest will follow at 8 p.m.
Arizona's Brigette Del Ponte hit a two-out solo home run in the top of the first in game one and the Irish responded when Emilee Koerner and Katey Hausstroked back-to-back one-out singles in the second, but both were left on the pond.
Arizona received a leadoff double in the third by Kristen Arriola. Arriola moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and charged home to score on Karissa Buchanan's infield single.
Hallie Wilson notched Arizona's third hit of the inning, an infield single to put runners on the corners for Del Ponte. Del Ponte singled home Arizona's second run of the frame.
Laura Winter(29-10) issued a two-out walk to load the bases and vexed Chelsea Goodacre into flying out to rightfield to end the threat.
Trailing 3-0, Jenna Simon produced an infield single and went to second on an Arizona throwing error in the bottom of the third. Simon advanced 60 feet on Alexa Maldonado's sacrifice bunt and would score on Kelsey Thornton'sinfield chopper to cut into the Arizona lead, 3-1.
Simon's run was the first allowed by Arizona in this season's NCAA Championship.
Kenzie Fowler (15-8) fanned six from the circle for the Wildcats and gave up two runs - one earned - in 6.0 frames. Shelby Babcock blanked Notre Dame in the seventh.
Brittany O'Donnellreplaced Winter in the fourth and Arizona worked the tosser to load the bases with one away. Del Ponte brought in a pair by floating a single over the glove of a retreating Simon at second to boost Arizona's lead to 5-1.
Del Ponte drove in four of Arizona's first five runs and finished 4-for-4 and scored twice.
Simon scored again in the fifth on Maldonado's single to center. Thornton singled to third on the eighth pitch of her at-bat, Fowler fanned Dani Milleron strikes and Koerner's rocket to center was snagged by Hallie Wilson to save a pair of runs from scoring.
Haus' sixth-inning double went for naught.
Arizona tacked on two runs in the seventh and finished the contest with 12 hits.
Winter allowed five hits and three earned runs in the first 3.0 innings with O'Donnell checking out with four strikeouts and permitting four earned runs in the last 4.0 stanzas.
Notre Dame struck first in the nightcap with North Dakota State (38-22) when Buntin unleashed a solo home run in the first for her 60th RBI on the season.
The Irish managed only one hit over the next four frames.
Amanda Grable tied it in the second when she turned on an offering from Winter for a solo homer.
North Dakota State left runners on first and second in the third.
Winter fanned the side in the fourth and neither team plated another run until Jamie Gay doubled in a pair with two outs in the fifth.
Each of North Dakota State's three runs were of the two-out variety.
Buntin singled in the sixth followed by another single from Miller. Lauren Stuhr drew a one-out walk to load the bases and Haus dropped a single into left to score Buntin. Pinch runner Monica Torres tied the game at 3-3 on a wild pitch and Chloe Saganowichripped a two-RBI single off the shin of first base umpire Geri Magwire. Maldonado wrapped up the scoring with an RBI single.
Notre Dame scored its five sixth-inning runs on five singles to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 advantage.
Miller singled and Stuhr went with a one-out double in the seventh. Haus brought her RBI total to three with a two-run single up the gut as the Irish took an 8-3 lead.
Winter struck out 10 and scattered seven hits in the win.
Maldonado, Buntin, Miller and Haus each finished with two hits. Haus led all players with three RBI.
The Irish tallied two hits in the first five frames and finished with 11 off of Bison starter Krista Menke (25-13).