Feb. 10, 2016
by Tony Jones
#24/RV Notre Dame at the Kajikawa Classic
Feb. 12-14, 2016
TSC Field 4/Farrington Stadium
#24/RV Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(42-15 in 2015)
#RV/23 Utah Utes
(36-19 in 2015)
#18 Kentucky Wildcats
(32-26 in 2015)
(40-14 in 2015)
#21/22 California Golden Bears
(39-18 in 2015)
Georgia State Panthers
(38-22 in 2015)
Notre Dame Kajikawa Classic Schedule
Friday, Feb. 12 (Tempe Sports Complex, Field 4)
Saturday, Feb. 13 (Tempe Sports Complex, Field 4)
Sunday, Feb. 14 (Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium)
The University of Notre Dame softball team makes its official return to the diamond with its first tournament of the 2016 season, traveling west to the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. The five-day tournament, hosted by Arizona State, features more than 30 teams and 80 games spread across the Sun Devils’ Farrington Stadium and the nearby Tempe Sports Complex.
No. 24/RV Notre Dame (42-15) squares off with No. RV/23 Utah (36-19 in 2015) on Friday at 2 p.m. (ET) before closing the opening day with a 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional rematch against No. 18 Kentucky (32-26) at 7 p.m. (ET) at the number four field at the TSC. The Irish square off with two more returning NCAA Championship qualifiers on Saturday, meeting BYU (40-14 in 2015) at 1:30 p.m. (ET) and No. 21/22 California (39-18 in 2015) at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on TSC Field Four. Notre Dame wraps up its tournament slate with a Sunday morning showdown with Georgia State (38-22 in 2015) at 11 a.m. (ET) inside Farrington Stadium.
There are not any scheduled video streams for Notre Dame contests at this weekend’s Kajikawa Classic, but all five games will feature live stats available at UND.com/softball through CBS Gametracker.
IRISH SLAP HITS
– Notre Dame enters 2016 with a 1,103-481-3 (.696) all-time record, 30 combined conference championships (19 regular-season, 11 tournament) and 20 NCAA Regional appearances, which has included 17 straight berths into the NCAA Championship tournament.
– Notre Dame secured the 17th 40-win season in program history by posting a 42-15 (.737) mark in 2015. The Irish have surpassed the 40-win plateau in each of the past seven seasons, and in nine of the last 11 campaigns overall.
– Notre Dame won 26 of its final 27 games during the 2015 regular season, outscoring opponents by a cumulative 240-56 run count in those contests.
– The 2015 Notre Dame team was only the third Irish team in the 28-year history of the program to win 20 or more consecutive contests in a single season. Last season’s Notre Dame squad’s 24 straight wins from March 15-April 22 was the second-longest streak in Irish history, with the standard bearer remaining the 33 straight wins for the 2001 Notre Dame team that led the NCAA that season.
– Notre Dame was slotted 24th in the preseason USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Jan. 26. It marked just the second time Notre Dame has opened consecutive seasons in the top 25 coaches poll in program history (2001-03) after checking in 22nd in 2015.
– Junior co-captain/All-American Karley Wester was named to the Top 50 Watch List for the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award on Feb. 3. Wester earned a spot on the watch list for the second straight preseason, and was a Top 26 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award in 2015.
– 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.
Veterans Return To ND Fold In ’16
Notre Dame returns 13 Monogram winners from its 2015 squad that made a 17th consecutive appearance (20th all-time) in the NCAA Championship, hosting an NCAA Regional for just the second time in program history (2005).
The Irish capped 2015 at 42-15 (.737), establishing single-season program records for hits (543), runs (395), and on-base percentage (.419), while batting above a .350 clip (.351) for the second straight season.
Notre Dame, which tied its 2014 team total of seven NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region honorees in 2015, has senior Micaela Arizmendi and junior co-captain Karley Wester returning as first team performers and sophomore Morgan Reed back as a third team representative from last season. Senior Allie Rhodes (20-5 in 2015), junior Rachel Nasland (17-9 in 2015) and sophomore Katie Beriont (4-1 in 2015) also return to comprise the core of a talented five-pitcher rotation entering the 2016 season.
Irish In Top 25 For 2nd Straight Year
Notre Dame was ranked 24th in the Jan. 26 release of the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Preseason Coaches Poll, just the second time the Irish have opened consecutive seasons in the top 25 coaches poll in program history (2001-03).
The 2016 NFCA preseason top 25 marked the seventh occasion Notre Dame has been ranked among the top 25 teams in the NFCA poll to open a season dating back to 1995. The Irish were tabbed 19th in 1995, 21st in 1997, 19th in 2001, 14th in 2002, 17th in 2003 and 22nd in 2015 in previous editions of the NFCA preseason top 25.
Notre Dame was also the first team receiving votes in the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25, narrowly missing a second straight slot in the initial media poll after checking in at number 21 in the 2015 preseason rankings.
ND Predicted 2nd By ACC Coaches
Notre Dame received 92 voting points, including two first place votes, to finish second in the 2016 ACC Softball Preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Monday. The 92 points and two first place nods were the most for the Irish in the preseason rankings since joining the ACC, after placing second (88 points, one first place vote) in 2015 and third (80 points) in 2014.
Notre Dame finished as conference runner-up in the preseason poll behind defending two-time ACC champion Florida State (99 points, 10 first place votes) for the second straight season. The conference’s 11 head coaches each cast one ballot for the predicted order of finish, and are not able to vote for their own teams.
Louisville and North Carolina State rounded out the ACC top five in a tie for third place, with each team earning 74 voting points.
Elite Schedule Awaits The Irish
A total of 12 of Notre Dame’s 36 scheduled opponents for the 2016 season were ranked in either the NFCA and ESPN.com preseason top 25 or were among teams receiving votes.
Highlights include the Irish squaring off with No. 7 UCLA (Feb. 20), No. 10 Florida State (April 2-3), No. 17 Central Florida (Feb. 26), No. 18 Kentucky (Feb. 12), No. 20/19 Washington (Feb. 19), No. 21/22 California (Feb. 13), No. 23/25 North Carolina State (May 7-8) and No. RV/23 Utah (Feb. 12) during the upcoming season.
Wester Back On Top 50 Watch List For USA Softball POY
For the second consecutive year, Notre Dame junior co-captain and 2014 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Karley Wester was included on the Top 50 “Watch List” for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced on Feb. 3.
Notre Dame has now seen at least one player selected to the top 50 preseason watch list for the national player of the year award in each of the last five seasons. NFCA All-Americans Dani Miller (2012) and Amy Buntin (2013), three-time NFCA All-American Emilee Koerner (2014 and 2015), and four-time NFCA all-region choice Laura Winter (2014) joined Wester (2015) in previously earning the distinction.
A pair of Irish players have been tabbed as finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year twice since 2013. As a sophomore that season, Koerner became Notre Dame’s first top 10 selection for the award in program history, while Wester finished as a top 26 player of the year finalist in 2015.
Irish Return Top Flight Talent
With 10 players returning to the Notre Dame roster that took at least one official at-bat last season, the Irish welcome back a team .340 batting average, 300 hits, 46 doubles, 21 home runs, 173 RBI and 211 runs scored in 2016.
All four Notre Dame pitchers that combined for a 42-15 record, three saves, 11 shutouts and 332 strikeouts are back in the Irish rotation this season.
Irish In The ACC
Notre Dame officially opens 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 146-47 (.756) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 10-7 (.588) all-time against the five teams it will face at this weekend’s Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State. The Irish are 5-0 against Utah, 1-2 against Kentucky, 2-0 against BYU, 1-5 against California and 1-0 against Georgia State in prior series meetings.
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.