March 7, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team makes its official debut as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this weekend during a three-game series against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga. The Irish and Yellow Jackets will meet in a Saturday doubleheader scheduled for a 1 p.m. (ET) first pitch, with Sunday’s series finale also scheduled for 1 p.m. at Shirley Clements Mewborn Field.
Sunday’s game will be carried live on ESPN3, and will be available through the WatchESPN player link at UND.com.
No. 22/21 Notre Dame (15-3) enters its first weekend of conference play in 2014 coming off a 5-0 run at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. The Irish outscored their opponents by a combined 28-9 run margin during last week’s tournament, improving to 15-3 all-time at the Citrus Classic (9-0 since 2013).
Georgia Tech enters the weekend series with a 12-4 record thus far in 2014, including a 1-2 mark in ACC play after losing the final two games of its league-opening slate against Boston College last weekend. Notre Dame is a perfect 4-0 all-time against the Yellow Jackets, with this weekend’s contests marking the first time the teams have ever met outside of tournament competition.
Fans can follow live stats for this weekend’s games via CBS GameTracker by visiting UND.com.
No. 22/21 Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
March 8-9, 2014
Shirley Clements Mewborn Field (1,500)
No. 22/21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(15-3 in 2014, making ACC debut)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
(12-4 in 2014, 1-2 in the ACC; 0-4 all-time against ND)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
IRISH SLAP HITS
– Notre Dame claimed its second tournament sweep of the season last weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, posting a perfect 5-0 mark in the team’s final tune-up before Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Irish defeated Fordham 7-3 (ESPN3) and Illinois State 4-2 on Friday, Ohio State 3-1 and Radford 9-0 in six innings on Saturday and Omaha 5-3 on Sunday.
– This weekend’s ACC series at Georgia Tech, the first ACC set in program history, will mark the earliest conference games Notre Dame has ever taken part in during a given calendar year. The Irish have never previously played a league contest prior to March 22 in any season (1991 against Loyola-Chicago and 2009 against St. John’s).
– Junior second baseman Jenna Simon tied for the team lead in hits (7) and added two RBI and three stolen bases to pace Notre Dame with a .467 batting average (7-for-15) last weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. Simon leads all Irish batters with a .425 average in 2014, the fifth-best clip in the ACC this season.
– Junior third baseman Katey Haus heated up the Irish order out of the three spot in the Notre Dame lineup at the Wide World of Sports, batting a blistering .462 (6-for-13) with three extra base hits, including her first home run of the year, and a team-high seven RBI, 11 total bases, an .846 slugging percentage and an even .500 on-base percentage. Haus is the Irish RBI leader with 17 runs batted in this season, and has also added a team-best five sacrifice bunts.
– Senior pitcher Laura Winter moved into a tie with Brittney Bargar (’09) for second place on the Notre Dame career wins list with her 92nd all-time victory last Sunday against Omaha. Winter also tied a career-high with 15 strikeouts against the Mavericks.
– Notre Dame enters this weekend’s series a perfect 4-0 all-time against Georgia Tech, outscoring the Yellow Jackets a combined 20-9.
– The Irish moved up one spot to number 22 in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, and two slots to 21 in the USA TODAY/NFCA Top 25 poll.
Make It Nine At The Diamond 9
Notre Dame extended its winning streak at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic to nine games with last weekend’s sweep of the tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. The Irish were 4-0 during the 2013 edition of the Citrus Classic.
In its past nine games at the event, Notre Dame is outscoring opponents 59-16, averaging 6.5 runs scored per game.
2014 Irish Now In Rare Air
After starting 2014 at 15-3 overall, with a pair of separate winning streaks that have totaled both eight and five games, respectively, this season’s Notre Dame has joined exclusive company in the program’s record book. Only two other teams in the 26-year history of Irish softball have won at least 15 of their first 18 games to begin a regular season.
The 2011 Notre Dame squad also raced out of the gate with a matching 15-3 mark after 18 contests, ultimately posting the best winning percentage in the Deanna Gumpf era (.807) on its way to a 46-11 final record.
The legendary 2001 Irish won 17 of their first 18 showings on the way to setting single-season program records for both wins (54) and fewest team losses (7) that year.
Best Offense In All The L…eague
Prior to the midweek schedule getting underway on Tuesday, Notre Dame entered the week as the leading team in both batting average (.342) and hits (166) in the ACC. The Irish, averaging 9.22 hits per contest through 18 games, are on pace to surpass the 2010 Notre Dame team that posted a clip of 8.64 base knocks per start.
Along with the top spots in average, hits, doubles (40), triples (4) and sacrifice hits (22), Notre Dame opened the week ranked second among conference teams in slugging percentage (.497), on-base percentage (.402), runs (106), RBI (96) and stolen bases (26).
Start Strong, Finish Stronger
One of the biggest keys to Notre Dame’s success this season has been the ability to score first, and often, early. In fact, the Irish are a combined 12-0 when scoring first in 2014, including 10-0 when scoring in the first inning.
A look at the aggregate run count reinforces the point, as Notre Dame has outscored the opposition 48-12 in the first two innings alone, including a dominant 25-2 clip in the first frame of games. By comparison, the Irish have scored a total of 58 runs in innings three-nine.
Winter Moves Into Tie With Bargar
Senior pitcher Laura Winter won all three of her starts last weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, joining another elite Notre Dame hurler in the program record book in the process.
With her 92nd career victory last Sunday against Omaha, Winter tied Brittney Bargar (’09) for second place on the all-time Notre Dame wins list. In fact, the San Diego, Calif. native, is only five wins shy of surpassing Heather Booth (’06) for the program record, which currently stands at 96 victories.
Leadoff Hits = More Opportunities
The fastest way to start an offensive rally is to produce at the plate when leading off an inning. Instant offense has been one of the hallmarks of the Notre Dame lineup through the first 18 games of the 2014 season.
The Irish are batting a torrid .434 (46-for-106) as a team to begin a frame, with 15 doubles and four home runs to go with an on-base percentage of .469. Five Notre Dame players that have made at least eight leadoff plate appearances have posted averages of .360 or higher in the top spot of an inning.
Junior All-American Emilee Koerner, who has been the primary Irish leadoff hitter, has logged 12 total hits to begin an inning in 27 at-bats (.444 average), including three doubles, four home runs and two walks drawn. Senior captain Chloe Saganowich (.500 average, three doubles), junior outfielder Megan Sorlie (.500 average, two doubles) and junior second baseman Jenna Simon (.500 average, 4-for-8) are tied for the team-high in leadoff batting average.
The Outfield Is In Control
As arguably the most talented position group on the Notre Dame roster, the five-player Irish outfield rotation has been more than up to the task in all phases of the game this season. A Notre Dame outfielder currently leads the team in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, total bases and slugging percentage (Emilee Koerner), along with walks drawn, on-base percentage and stolen bases (Karley Wester).
The regular starting trio of left fielder Karley Wester (.407 average), center fielder Emilee Koerner (.400 average) and right fielder Megan Sorlie (.385 average) rank second through fourth among all Notre Dame players in season batting average.
Senior right fielder Lauren Stuhr enjoyed her best offensive weekend of the season at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, smashing a pair of doubles and scoring two runs in four games played (two starts) during the 5-0 Irish tournament triumph. Classmate Monica Torres added her second career pinch-hit RBI base knock, an infield single, last Saturday against Radford.
‘The Kids Are All Right’
The youth movement on the Notre Dame pitching staff has been in full effect this season, as sophomore Allie Rhodes and freshman Rachel Nasland have given the Irish a venerable three-pitcher rotation with senior Laura Winter.
Rhodes (4-1), only the second southpaw hurler in Notre Dame program history, opened her season with four shutout innings (two hits allowed) against Tennessee Tech on Feb. 8, and has continued to grow. Along with throwing the 40th all-time Irish no-hitter the following day against Morehead State (Feb. 9), Rhodes has been virtually unhittable this season, entering the week with a batting average against of .150, the lowest in the ACC.
Nasland has chipped in the best ERA on the Notre Dame squad at 1.15, and her three earned runs allowed in 18.1 innings pitched are the fewest surrendered in the ACC this season. The San Diego, Calif. native, is 2-0 with two saves in eight appearances (two starts).
Irish In The ACC
Notre Dame officially opens its tenure in the ACC at Georgia Tech after compiling a 297-53 record (.849) in the BIG EAST Conference, winning 13 regular-season and four tournament championship titles in 18 years. The Irish won the most BIG EAST games of any league team during that span.
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant