April 23, 2016
by Tony Jones
#18 Notre Dame at North Carolina
April 24-25, 2016
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
#18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(34-6, 9-3 ACC)
North Carolina Tar Heels
(24-21, 8-10 ACC)
Notre Dame-North Carolina ACC Schedule
Saturday, April 24
No. 18 Notre Dame at North Carolina — 3:30 p.m. (ET)/ESPNU
No. 18 Notre Dame at North Carolina — 5:30 p.m. (ET)/GoHeelsTV
Sunday, April 25
No. 18 Notre Dame at North Carolina — 7 p.m. (ET)/ESPNU
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) grind resumes for the University of Notre Dame softball team this weekend, as the Irish travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to face North Carolina in a three-game league set. A Sunday doubleheader and Monday night series finale will be held at Anderson Stadium, with Sunday’s opening game and Monday’s 7 p.m. (ET) start airing live on ESPNU.
No. 18 Notre Dame (34-6, 9-3 ACC) looks for its third straight ACC series victory in its first trip to North Carolina (24-21, 8-10 ACC) since 2014. The Irish swept a conference doubleheader at Anderson Stadium over the Tar Heels on April 9, 2014, downing North Carolina 6-0 and 11-6.
Notre Dame enters this weekend’s series with North Carolina holding an 11-3 (.786) advantage over the Tar Heels, including a perfect 4-0 at Anderson Stadium. The Irish have won nine of their last 10 meetings with North Carolina dating back to the 1999 season.
Along with live video coverage on ESPNU and GoHeelsTV (game two), live stats will be available for all games via StatBroadcast.
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.
IRISH SLAP HITS
– Notre Dame has won 20 straight nonconference home games in the regular season dating back to March of 2013 after a 7-3 win over Valparaiso on April 20. Including the 2016 tournament schedule, Notre Dame has downed 21 consecutive nonconference opponents since Feb. 20.
– Notre Dame ran its current winning streak to nine games with its 7-3 victory over Valparaiso. Notre Dame previously won 19 straight contests from Feb. 20-March 22.
– The Irish downed Virginia Tech 3-0, 7-5 and 5-3 to secure their second Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series sweep of 2016 on April 16-17. It was the first Notre Dame series sweep at Tech Softball Park since 2001, when both teams were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
– Sophomore Bailey Bigler and senior Allie Rhodes swept the most recent ACC weekly awards on April 18, with Bigler claiming conference player and Rhodes conference pitcher of the week honors. Bigler and Rhodes are the first Notre Dame pair to sweep the ACC citations since the final week of the 2014 regular season.
– Junior co-captain Karley Wester was named one of the Top 25 Finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for the second straight season on April 13. Wester is the third Notre Dame player in the last four seasons to be considered for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award after being named one of 26 finalists in 2015.
– Freshman Ali Wester was selected as one of the top 25 finalists for the 2016 Schutt Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I National Freshman of the Year award that was released on April 21.
– Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 28th straight season with a .500 record or better with an 11-3 win in five innings over IUPUI on April 5 at Melissa Cook Stadium. Notre Dame’s three-time national champion women’s soccer program has also logged 28 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
Irish Claim Crucial ACC Sweep Over Hokies
Much as it notched two wins during the first day of play at Tech Softball Park, Notre Dame seemed to have the answer for Virginia Tech. A 13-hit performance, which featured two runs in the fifth and sixth innings, guided the Irish to a 5-3 win on April 17 to complete an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series sweep.
Notre Dame secured its second conference sweep of 2016 by taking three games against Virginia Tech, outscoring the Hokies 15-8 during the weekend set. The Irish also finished with a 28-13 overall edge in hits.
Bigler, Rhodes Earn ACC Weekly Honors
Notre Dame sophomore outfielder Bailey Bigler and senior pitcher Allie Rhodes served as key components to an undefeated run through the last week of play for the Irish softball team. The ACC recognized the efforts of both Notre Dame standouts on April 18, naming Bigler the ACC Softball Player of the Week and Rhodes the ACC Pitcher of the Week.
The player of the week accolade was the first career ACC weekly honor for Bigler, while Rhodes was previously tabbed the conference’s top pitcher on March 7. Bigler became the seventh Notre Dame selection as the ACC’s top weekly player since the Irish joined the conference in 2014, while Rhodes’ nod was the ninth such citation earned by a member of the Notre Dame pitching staff.
The dual awards marked the second time that Notre Dame has swept the weekly ACC softball honors in its three seasons as a conference member. Three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (`15) and four-time all-conference first team pitcher Laura Winter (`14) were the final ACC weekly award honorees of the 2014 campaign on May 5 of that year.
Bigler made a profound impact as the top Notre Dame hitter during a 4-0 week that included a three-game sweep at Virginia Tech, batting 6-for-9 (.667) against three-time ACC Pitcher of the Week Maggie Tyler, alone. Rhodes was a stalwart in the circle for Notre Dame during the unbeaten week, going 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three starts. Opponents batted just .153 against Rhodes in 18 innings, scoring two runs (one earned) while striking out 24 times.
Ali Wester Named NFCA Frosh Of The Year Finalist
Freshman outfielder/infielder Ali Wester was selected as one of the top 25 finalists for the 2016 Schutt Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I National Freshman of the Year award on April 21.
Wester became 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 and current Notre Dame junior co-captain Karley Wester. The elder Wester was a top three finalist for the inaugural national freshman of the year award in 2014.
Ali Wester ranks second on the Notre Dame roster and fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a .412 batting average as a primary slap hitter in her first 40 career starts, adding the second-most hits (54) and eighth-most runs scored (38) and stolen bases (17) in the conference. Wester also leads all ACC players with 17 sacrifice bunts thus far in 2016.
Irish Unbeaten In Home Midweeks
Notre Dame improved to a perfect 7-0 in home midweek games this season with a 7-3 win over Valparaiso on April 20. The Irish have outscored nonconference foes by a cumulative 54-11 run count over their first seven home nonconference games.
Notre Dame scored five runs over the first two innings against the Crusaders, adding two insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth frame before withstanding a pair of Valparaiso home runs late to earn the win.
Pitchers Patch Stifles Foes On The Road
A key factor to Notre Dame’s 10-2 start in true road games has been the output of its main three-pitcher rotation, senior Allie Rhodes, junior Rachel Nasland and sophomore Katie Beriont.
The Notre Dame pitching staff has limited opponents to a combined .202 batting average inside foes own home stadiums. Rhodes has a 6-2 record with a .191 batting average against, Nasland has logged a 2-0 mark with a .178 opposing average and Beriont has chipped in a 2-0 record while yielding a .191 batting clip against in true road contests.
Wester Again A USA Softball POY Top 25 Finalist
Junior co-captain Karley Wester was named one of the Top 25 Finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for the second straight season on April 13. Wester is the first Notre Dame finalist in consecutive seasons in the history of the award (Top 26 Finalist in 2015).
Irish Against The ACC
Notre Dame officially opened its third season in the ACC at Virginia on March 12. Taking into account all prior games, including those before joining the league, the Irish are a combined 155-50 (.756) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 11-3 (.786) in its all-time series against North Carolina, winning nine of the last 10 meetings with the Tar Heels since 1999. Both teams split a conference doubleheader last season at Melissa Cook Stadium after combining for 36 runs on 49 hits.
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.