March 16, 2016
by Tony Jones
#19 Notre Dame vs. Bowling Green
March 17, 2016
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
#19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Bowling Green Falcons
Thursday, March 17
The University of Notre Dame softball team makes its 2016 debut at Melissa Cook Stadium with a Thursday midweek matchup against Bowling Green. The 5 p.m. (ET) nonconference game will stream live on WatchND.
No. 19 Notre Dame (21-3) enters its home opener riding a 17-game winning streak that dates back to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Feb. 19 in Palm Springs, California. The Irish will look for their sixth home opening win in seven seasons when they host Bowling Green (11-10) on Thursday.
Entering Thursday’s game Notre Dame holds a 14-6 (.700) edge in the all-time series against Bowling Green, emerging victorious in the last five games between the teams on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish downed the Falcons 8-2 on April 14, 2015, in the most recent series meeting at Melissa Cook Stadium.
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 current winning streak to 17 games with a weekend ACC sweep at Virginia, downing the Cavaliers 9-2, 7-3 and 16-3 at The Park in Charlottesville. The Irish finished with a 29-11 edge in total hits over Virginia, which included a 25-7 mark in RBI for the three-game league set.
– Notre Dame opened ACC play a perfect 3-0 for the first time since joining the conference prior to the 2014 season with last weekend’s sweep at Virginia. The Irish have now swept a season’s first conference series on 18 occasions during the program’s 28-year history.
– In Tuesday’s release of updated ACC softball statistics, Notre Dame boasted a conference-best three players in the top five of cumulative batting average amongst all league hitters. Junior co-captain Karley Wester led the ACC with a .463 average as of March 14, with freshman Melissa Rochford checking in third at .456. Freshman Ali Wester was fifth with a .435 average.
– Notre Dame’s current 17-game winning streak was the longest in the ACC as of March 16. The 21-3 record for Notre Dame matches the best start in the history of the program, equaling the first 24 results of the historic 2001 Irish squad that won a team record 54 games that season.
– Freshman infielder Melissa Rochford earned her first career weekly conference honor by being selected as the ACC Softball Player of the Week on March 14. Rochford .444 with two doubles, one home run, a team-high 10 RBI and six runs scored in her five starts, adding a team-best 14 assists in the field at third base. She also reached base at a .524 clip and slugged .722 for the week.
– With her six total RBI during Notre Dame’s nine-game Spring Break slate, senior infielder Micaela Arizmendi became the ninth player in program history to surpass the 150 career RBI mark. Arizmendi has averaged more than 40 runs batted in parts of four seasons at Notre Dame, including a career-high 61 in 2014.
– 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 Off To First 3-0 Start In The ACC
A total of 13 Sunday hits, including 10 in the final two innings alone, provided the offensive firepower to lift Notre Dame to a 16-3 win over Virginia and notch a three-game conference sweep last weekend.
Notre Dame kept its momentum rolling with its 17th straight victory dating back to Feb. 19, outscoring Virginia 32-8 during the weekend set at The Park. The Irish added a 29-11 edge in total hits, 25-7 lead in RBI and nine to two cushion for the weekend in stolen bases.
Rochford Claims First Career ACC Player Of The Week Award
Freshman infielder Melissa Rochford further cemented her status as one of the most impactful newcomers in the nation by being selected as the ACC Softball Player of the Week on March 14.
The player of the week honor was the first ACC award earned by Rochford in her collegiate career, as she became the second Notre Dame player recognized by the ACC in as many weeks after senior Allie Rhodes was chosen as the conference’s pitcher of the week on March 7. Rochford joined junior co-captain Karley Wester (Feb. 17, 2014) as the only Irish freshmen to ever earn the ACC Player of the Week award.
Rochford was one of 11 Notre Dame players to record at least one hit during a 5-0 week that featured a stop at FIU and the opening of ACC play at Virginia. She batted .444 with two doubles, one home run, a team-high 10 RBI and six runs scored in her five starts, adding a team-best 14 assists in the field at third base. Rochford also reached base at a .524 clip and slugged .722 for the week.
Offense Enjoys Strong Spring Break Surge For Irish
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 during its nine-game Spring Break tour that included stops in Florida and Virginia. The Irish batted .346 as a team with 79 runs on 97 hits over the undefeated road trip, which included 13 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 68 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
Freshman Ali Wester batted a team-high .500 (16-for-32) over the break with nine RBI, seven stolen bases and 12 runs scored in her nine starts. Classmate Melissa Rochford chipped in a .467 batting clip, two doubles, one home run, 12 RBI and 10 runs. Junior co-captain Karley Wester contributed 15 hits, one home run, seven RBI, a team-high 10 stolen bases and equaled sister Ali by scoring 12 times.
Freshman Caitlyn Brooks connected on three home runs and added 12 RBI during her first career Spring Break trip, while senior Casey Africano finished with a home run and six RBI. A total of 14 of the 15 Notre Dame players who made at least one plate appearance on the road swing scored at least one run, while 13 different Irish batters notched at least one base hit.
Irish Polish Off A Perfect Spring Break
With nine wins in 10 days on the 2016 Notre Dame tour through Florida and Virginia, the Irish notched what was believed to be the program’s first perfect Spring Break ledger as part of the team’s undefeated record to open the month of March.
Notre Dame scored at least one run in the first inning during seven of its nine Spring Break wins, and were 8-0 when posting the game’s first run in that stretch. Closing equally as strongly, the Irish outscored opponents 42-8 in the sixth and seventh innings alone.
Westy Continues Climbing The Record Book
Junior co-captain Karley 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.
Of the 38 NCAA Division players that opened the week with 200 or more career hits, Wester was the top active non-senior that had reached the milestone with 209. 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 44 hits through her first 24 starts this season.
Wester also joined two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05) and Jenna Simon (’15) as the third Notre Dame player to steal 70 career bases with a first inning steal on March 12 against Virginia. Wester is five stolen bases shy (72) of surpassing the 76 career swiped bags of Ciolli and Simon.
Already the Notre Dame career leader in both batting average (.446) and on-base percentage (.498), Wester has also risen to 10th on the runs scored list (146) thus far in her junior campaign.
The Freshmen Are Still Leaving Their Mark
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 24 games, the talented quintet is batting a combined .385 with 18 doubles, eight home runs, 78 RBI, 15 stolen bases and 77 runs scored.
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 16) are believed to be the only other varsity athletics mentors to win 600 games during their Notre Dame tenures.
Gumpf enters Thursday’s home opening contest against Bowling Green with a career record of 612-238-1 (.720) 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 14-6 (.700) all-time against Bowling Green, winning the first five meetings between the teams at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to the 2010 season. The Irish downed the Falcons 8-2 on April 14, 2015 to extend an ongoing winning streak to 19 games.
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.