CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – A second signature victory of the weekend ended, in style, what has been the most daunting schedule to open a season in University of Notre Dame softball history. A pair of late home runs, including a solo blast off the bat of freshman Katie Marino in the seventh inning, was the knockout punch for the Irish on Saturday in a 5-4 win over No. 4/5 Oklahoma.
The victory against the defending NCAA champion Sooners marked the second straight ranked triumph for Notre Dame to close the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex. The Irish previously earned a 10-7 decision against No. 11/12 Georgia on Friday.
Oklahoma (9-4) struck first with a single into center field with two outs in the bottom of the first, pushing the Sooners ahead 1-0. A deep fly ball to center field with two on and two away was hauled in by Karley Wester to leave both Oklahoma runners aboard.
Notre Dame (6-8) clawed back into the contest in the top of the second inning. Melissa Rochford reached by way of a one-out walk, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Kimmy Sullivan ripped a single through the right side, and a subsequent Oklahoma throwing error allowed Rochford to score and tie the game at 1-1. Madison Heide followed with an RBI single to left center that plated Sullivan for the 2-1 Irish advantage.
Notre Dame starter Katie Beriont looked to be out of danger in the bottom of the second frame, but back-to-back Irish fielding errors allowed Oklahoma to re-take the lead at 3-2 with two outs. Marino then made a great backhand stop at second base to end the inning.
The Irish tied the game with a run of their own in the top of the third. Karley Wester led off with a chop single to third base, taking second on a steal. Morgan Reed crushed a double to left field two batters later that allowed Wester to coast home and even the score at 3-3.
Beriont notched consecutive shutout frames against the Oklahoma lineup in the third and fourth innings. A pair of groundouts and a fly ball out to Ali Wester in left field turned the Sooners aside in the fourth.
Oklahoma scrapped back into the lead in the bottom of the fifth following an RBI double to right field that made the score 4-3 in favor of the Sooners. Notre Dame reliever Rachel Nasland picked up three straight outs from there to slow the Oklahoma inning to a halt.
Notre Dame tied the game again in the top of the sixth inning. Caitlyn Brooks destroyed the first pitch she saw from Oklahoma’s Paige Parker over the wall center field. Brooks’ fourth home run of the year evened the score once more at 4-4.
Marino came through in the final Irish at-bat with her second big-time home run in as many weekends to lead off the top of the seventh. Marino rocked a 0-1 offering from Parker deep out of Wrigley Field in left, and the freshman’s second career home run vaulted Notre Dame back in front at 5-4.
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After two quick outs, including a Nasland strikeout, opened the bottom of the seventh inning, Oklahoma managed to load the bases. Nasland forced her opposite number Parker to ground out to shortstop with the winning run at second base to nail down the win.
- Notre Dame earned its fifth win in series history over Oklahoma, including its fourth when the Sooners have been ranked in the national top 10 … Saturday’s game marked the second time the Irish have downed Oklahoma as either the eventual or defending NCAA champion, along with a 4-2 win over the future NCAA title-winners on March 18, 2000 … A win over the No. 4 team in the country matches the highest ranked foe Notre Dame has defeated in program history … Notre Dame’s three top 15 victories thus far in 2017 lead all teams in the ACC.