May 12, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An eventful week preceding the official opening of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship for the University of Notre Dame softball team continued on Thursday afternoon. Freshman outfielder/infielder Ali Wester (Huntington Beach, California/Edison) was further recognized for her stellar rookie season by being named one of 10 finalists for the 2016 Schutt Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I National Freshman of the Year award.
In its third season of existence, the NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award was created to recognize the outstanding athletic accomplishments of freshmen softball student-athletes from Division I institutions.
Just one day after her sister, Notre Dame junior co-captain Karley Wester, was announced as one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, Ali Wester joined an exclusive list of players from eight different Division I institutions vying for the title of the nation’s top freshman. The Westers are the only siblings in NCAA Division I softball to both be included in top 10 contention for national player and freshman of the year accolades in 2016.
The top three finalists for national freshman of the year will be selected and released on May 25. The Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy will be presented during a live ceremony on May 31 prior to the opening of the annual Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Wester is the second Notre Dame player to be a finalist for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award since its inception in 2014, joining sister Karley. The elder Wester was a top three finalist for the inaugural national freshman of the year award in 2014.
Wester finished the regular season ranked second on the Notre Dame roster and in the ACC with a .419 batting average as a primary slap hitter, adding the second-most hits (67), the seventh most runs scored (46) and eighth most stolen bases (20) in the conference. Wester also remains among the NCAA leaders with 21 sacrifice bunts thus far in 2016.
The Huntington Beach, California native was equally successful in her first 20 ACC conference games, batting .365 with seven stolen bases and 16 runs scored to claim all-ACC second team honors. Wester’s 20 overall multiple-hit games rank second among all Notre Dame hitters, and her eight multi-RBI games are the fourth most by an Irish player this season.
A total of 63 of Wester’s hits as of May 11 were credited as singles, with 35 of those singles officially recorded as infield hits. Wester has also chipped in 75 putouts and 58 assists splitting time between second base and left field.
Wester has enjoyed some of her best offensive performances during her freshman campaign against fellow NFCA top 25 foes. The versatile Notre Dame rookie is batting .407 with six RBI, five stolen bases and eight runs scored in seven games against nationally ranked opponents this season.
For the latest news and updates on all things Notre Dame softball, visit www.und.com/softball, follow the Irish @NDsoftball and @NDcoachGumpf on Twitter and at Instagram.com/notredamesoftball, and Like the team at Facebook.com/NDSoftball.
2016 Schutt Sports/NFCA DI National Freshman of the Year Top 10 Finalists
Kelly Barnhill (Florida) | Pitcher
Taty Forbes (Coastal Carolina) | Outfield
Kelsey Horton (New Mexico State) | First Base
Brianna Jones (Southern Illinois) | Pitcher
Shay Knighten (Oklahoma) | Infield
Amanda Lorenz (Florida) | Outfield
Hailey Lunderman (Ole Miss) | Shortstop
Keeli Milligan (Texas A&M) | IF/OF
Claire Oberdorf (Marist) | 2B/C
Ali Wester (Notre Dame) | OF/IF
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.