March 11, 2016
by Tony Jones
#20/23 Notre Dame at Virginia
March 12-13, 2016
#20/23 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame-Virginia ACC Weekend Schedule
Saturday, March 12
Sunday, March 13
As its Spring Break trip begins to wind down, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) season for the University of Notre Dame softball team is set to begin. The Irish close a stretch of nine games in 10 days with an ACC set this weekend against Virginia at The Park in Charlottesville, Virginia.
No. 20/23 Notre Dame (18-3) enters conference play on a 14-game winning streak after sweeping a midweek doubleheader from FIU in Miami on Wednesday. The Irish have outscored opponents 106-31 in their past 14 wins, clubbing 32 extra-base hits and stealing 30 bases.
Virginia (8-15) will host Notre Dame for the second time in a conference series since the Irish joined the ACC in 2014. Thanks in part to the 15th perfect game in program history by Laura Winter in the weekend opener, Notre Dame swept the three-game series from the Cavaliers on April 18-19, 2014 at The Park.
There will be no live audio or video feed for Saturday’s contests between Notre Dame and Virginia, but there is expected to be live audio on Sunday at virginiasports.com. Live stats for all games will be available via CBS Gametracker.
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 extended its winning streak to 14 games with a Wednesday nonconference doubleheader sweep at FIU, downing the Panthers 17-8 and 6-3 at Felsberg Field at FIU Stadium. The Irish finished with a slight 26-20 edge in total hits over FIU, which included a 23-8 mark in RBI for the twin bill.
– The 17 team RBI for Notre Dame in the opening win against FIU is believed to have tied a program record that was established on April 26, 2015 against North Carolina. The 17 total runs were one from tying the longstanding Notre Dame mark of 18 established in a March 11, 1994 win against Robert Morris (18-0).
– In Thursday’s release of updated ACC softball statistics, Notre Dame boasted a conference-best four players in the top seven of cumulative batting average amongst all league hitters. Junior co-captain Karley Wester led the ACC with an even .500 average as of March 10, with freshman Melissa Rochford checking in second at .483. Freshman Ali Wester was sixth with a .440 average, while sophomore Bailey Bigler held the seventh spot with a .422 mark.
– Notre Dame’s current 14-game winning streak is tied with Auburn for the sixth-longest victory surge in NCAA Division I softball as of March 10. The 18-3 record for Notre Dame matches the best start in the history of the program, equaling the first 21 results of the historic 2001 Irish squad that won a team record 54 games that season.
– Senior pitcher Allie Rhodes earned her first career weekly conference award by being named the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week on March 7. Rhodes strung together two impressive starts to claim a 2-0 record at the FGCU Spring Break Classic, scattering five hits in 13 innings of work, walking one batter while striking out 14 opposing hitters.
– With an RBI single in the fourth inning of a 7-0 win against Stony Brook on March 6, junior co-captain Karley Wester became the 22nd player in Notre Dame softball history to surpass 200 hits for a career. Wester needed only 129 games to achieve the milestone, an average of more than 1.5 hits per game, to break the Irish record pace to 200 hits in 165 contests set by three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15).
– Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 27th straight season with a .500 record or better with a 42-15 final mark to close the 2015 campaign. Notre Dame’s three-time national champion women’s soccer program has logged 28 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
ND Continues Reaching New Heights With FIU Sweep
A high-octane offensive effort in game one of a Wednesday doubleheader at Florida International resulted in a 17-8 victory, and a balanced hitting and pitching effort in the nightcap yielded a 6-3 triumph for Notre Dame to sweep the day at Felsberg Field at FIU Stadium.
Notre Dame added two more victories to its current 14-game winning streak, equaling the 2001 Irish squad for the best 21-game start in program history (18-3). Notre Dame finished with a 26-20 edge in total hits over FIU, which included a 23-8 mark in RBI for the twin bill.
Offense Explodes In South Florida Double Dip
With glimpses of an offensive eruption beginning to peek through over the final few weeks of tournament play, Notre Dame made good on the built up momentum with a stellar offensive showing in its two games at FIU. The Irish batted .377 as a team with 23 runs on 26 hits in the doubleheader sweep, which included two doubles, one triple, three home runs and three stolen bases.
Junior co-captain Karley Wester batted .667 (6-for-9) with two RBI, three stolen bases and six runs scored to pace the Notre Dame offense against FIU. Wester’s four runs in the opening game against the Panthers equaled a single-game Irish program record, which she and seven other players previously shared. Wester is the first Notre Dame player to reach the four-run plateau in two separate games in her career.
Freshman Melissa Rochford added five hits, five RBI and three runs scored, while senior Casey Africano chipped in a home run and five RBI. Freshman Ali Wester connected on five hits, four RBI and scored three runs, and freshman Caitlyn Brooks drilled two tape measure home runs for four RBI.
Six Games In, Three To Go On Spring Break
As part of six wins in five days on the first two legs of the 2016 Notre Dame Spring Break tour through Florida and Virginia, a number of Irish players have contributed to the cause and the team’s undefeated record to open the month of March.
Dating back to the opening game of the FGCU Spring Break Classic on March 5 against Stony Brook, freshman Melissa Rochford is batting a team-high .550 (11-for-20) with seven RBI and seven runs scored. Rochford has reached base at an even .600 clip after drawing two walks and a pair of hit by pitches during that span.
Freshman Ali Wester is hitting .545 (12-for-22) thus far on the break with eight RBI, five stolen bases and eight runs scored. Junior co-captain Karley Wester leads all Notre Dame batters with 13 hits, seven stolen bases and nine runs, while freshman Caitlyn Brooks has chipped in four extra-base hits (three home runs) and 10 RBI in her past six starts.
Senior Allie Rhodes is a perfect 3-0 in the circle with a 1.65 ERA in her three Spring Break starts, scattering 12 hits in 17 innings while striking out 17 opposing hitters. Sophomore Katie Beriont is 2-0 in three relief appearances, surrendering just two earned runs (1.56 ERA) and picking up nine strikeouts in nine full innings. Junior Rachel Nasland is 1-0 with a 1.75 ERA and 13 strikeouts in her three Florida starts, while freshman Caitlyn Brooks notched her first career save in the first win at FIU.
Freshman Quintet Makes Its Presence Known
The five-member freshman class of Melissa Rochford, Ali Wester, Caitlyn Brooks, Maddie McCracken and MK Bonamy have been asked to fill immediate roles in the Notre Dame lineup during their rookie seasons. To say the group has delivered through the nonconference tournament slate would be an understatement.
After 21 games, the talented quintet is batting a combined .386 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 67 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 65 runs scored. Rochford led all ACC hitters as of March 10 with a .568 on-base percentage, and Rochford (batting average, hits, runs, RBI), Wester (batting average, hits, runs, RBI, stolen bases) and Brooks (slugging percentage, home runs, RBI) are all prominently featured in the top 10 of numerous other league offensive categories entering Notre Dame’s opening ACC weekend at Virginia.
With Two Outs On The Board, Brooks Shines For The Irish
Freshman Caitlyn Brooks has been a tough out in any situation batting in the heart of the Notre Dame lineup this season, but the powerful right-handed hitter has made the most noise with two outs in an inning. Brooks leads all Irish batters with 13 (of her 23 total) two-out RBI, and is tied with classmate Melissa Rochford with nine two-out base hits.
Brooks is hitting an even .400 when there are runners in scoring position and two outs on the scoreboard, with two doubles, one triple, one home run and 11 RBI in 15 at-bats in that situation.
Rhodes Recognized As Exemplary ACC Weekly Performer
After a second straight dominant weekend in the circle Notre Dame senior pitcher Allie Rhodes was named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Co-Pitcher of the Week on March 7, sharing the honor with Florida State’s Jessica Burroughs. The ACC Pitcher of the Week nod was the first career weekly conference citation for Rhodes, and was the first such award earned by a Notre Dame player in 2016.
Rhodes strung together two impressive starts to log a 2-0 record at the FGCU Spring Break Classic last weekend in Fort Myers, Florida. The Kirkland, Washington native allowed five hits in 13 innings of work, walking one batter while striking out 14 opposing hitters.
Dating back to a start against Cal Poly on Feb. 20, Rhodes is 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA and two saves, posting 48 strikeouts to seven walks in 43.2 innings pitched. She is Notre Dame’s team leader with eight wins, two saves and 75 strikeouts in 13 appearances (10 starts) thus far this season, all totals that rank in the top 10 of the ACC.
Westy Joins Elite ND Company
Entering Spring Break with 194 career hits, junior co-captain Karley Wester was on the verge of adding her name to another chapter of the Notre Dame program record book.
Wester became the 22nd player in Irish history to reach the 200-hit plateau for a career with an RBI single in the fourth inning on March 6 against Stony Brook. Wester needed only 129 games to achieve the milestone, an average of more than 1.5 hits per game, in breaking the Irish record pace to 200 hits. Three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) played in 165 games before recording her 200th hit in an Irish uniform, a team benchmark that Wester shattered by 36 games on Sunday.
Of the 30 NCAA Division players that opened the week with 200 or more career hits, Wester was the only active non-senior that had reached the milestone. The ACC leader with 81 hits as a freshman in 2014 and 84 hits as a sophomore in 2015, Wester leads all ACC batters with 42 hits through her first 21 starts this season.
Already the Notre Dame career leader in both batting average (.452) and on-base percentage (.504), Wester has also risen to third on the all-time stolen base chart (69-of-77) and 10th on the runs scored list (143) thus far in her junior campaign.
Coach Gumpf Wins #600 At ND
Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf earned her 600th career victory at the helm of the Irish thanks to a 5-1 win over No. 22 Central Florida on Feb. 26 at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic.
Gumpf became the third Notre Dame coach to surpass the win milestone at the helm of an Irish varsity program. Legendary fencing coach Michael DeCicco (799) and Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw (730 as of March 11) are believed to be the only other varsity athletics mentors to win 600 games during their Notre Dame tenures.
Gumpf enters the first ACC series of 2016 at Virginia with a career record of 609-238-1 (.719) in her 15th season at Notre Dame, with her winning percentage total ranking among the top 15 active coaches in NCAA Division I softball.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 11-0 all-time against Virginia, including a perfect 3-0 against the Cavaliers at The Park in Charlottesville after sweeping the first ACC series between the teams in 2014. The Irish have outscored the Hoos by a cumulative 86-20 run count over the first 11 meetings between the teams.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant 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.