FULLERTON, Calif. -- Rachael Cook's solo home run to lead off the sixth inning capped a furious late-inning comeback as the fourth-ranked Texas Softball team rallied from a four-run deficit to defeat Notre Dame, 6-5, on Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the championship bracket at the Judi Garman Classic at the Titan Softball Complex.
Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Texas (29-3) scored four runs on five hits in the fifth to knot the score before Cook launched her second home run of the year in the next inning to put the Horns ahead for good. Notre Dame (11-10), which had moved into the championship bracket on Saturday morning after completing a rain-halted, 1-0 victory over Florida State in pool play, fell to 0-2 all-time against the Longhorns.
The Longhorns used four doubles - from Crystal Saenz, Kacie Gaskin, Tina Boutelle and Megan Willis - to go tie the score in the fifth, then benefited from Cook's heroics to win the game.
With the victory, Texas moves into the championship bracket semifinal round, where the team will face top-ranked Arizona at 10:30 a.m. CST on Sunday, March 19. Live stats will be available at TexasSports.com. Arizona finished second in its pool with a 2-1 record, losing to No. 18 Texas A&M, 1-0.
Cat Osterman (17-1) earned the win in relief after she entered in the top of the sixth with the score tied. She threw the final two innings, allowing one hit while striking out four. Meagan Denny threw the first five innings, allowing five runs on four hits with five strikeouts and six walks in the no decision.
Willis matched her career high, going 3-for-3 on the day with one RBI. Boutelle went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Hall added an RBI with her fifth-inning single that scored Boutelle.
The Irish jumped right out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Mallorie Lenn hit a two-run home run to left field that also scored Alexandra Kotcheff from second. Notre Dame added another run in the third, pushing the UND lead to 3-0, when Kotcheff singled in Stephanie Brown, who led off the frame with a walk, from second.
Texas got on the board in the bottom of the third, doing damage with two outs. After back-to-back comebackers to the pitcher for the first two outs, Boutelle had a single to center field and then moved to second when the Irish fielder bobbled the ball while getting the ball into the infield. Shannon Thomas drove her in with a single back up the middle past the drawn-in infield, cutting the Irish lead to 3-1.
Notre Dame threatened again in the fourth inning, loading the bases without any hits, but Texas got out of the jam. Denny issued one-out and two-out walks and then Brown reached on a fielding error to put runners on every base. Kotcheff stepped up, however, and grounded out to second to end the inning, allowing the Horns to remain back by two runs.
The Irish did further damage in the top of the fifth, again with a two-run home run. After Lenn drew a lead-off walk, Katie Laing brought her in with a deep home run to left center that pushed the score to 5-1.
Down a run in the seventh, Lenn snaked a lead-off single through the 3-4 hole and then moved to second on a one-out sacrifice bunt, but Osterman got Sara Schoonaert to strike out to end the game and preserve the Horns' victory.
Notre Dame starter Brittany Bargar lasted 4.2 innings, allowing five runs - four earned - on eight hits with two strikeouts and no walks. She was relieved by Heather Booth (5-6), who took the loss, in the decisive fifth. She allowed one run on two hits with one strikeout and no walks.
Lenn had the only multiple-hit effort for the Irish, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a walk.