Feb. 18, 2016
by Tony Jones
#RV Notre Dame at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
Feb. 19-21, 2016
Big League Dreams Sports Complex
Cathedral City, California
#RV Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Utah Valley Wolverines
#11/9 Washington Huskies
Cal Poly Mustangs
#8/7 UCLA Bruins
George Washington Colonials
Notre Dame Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic Schedule
Friday, Feb. 19
No. RV Notre Dame vs. Utah Valley – 4 p.m. (ET)
No. RV Notre Dame vs. No. 11/9 Washington – 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Saturday, Feb. 20
No. RV Notre Dame vs. Cal Poly – 1 p.m. (ET)
No. RV Notre Dame vs. No. 8/7 UCLA – 6 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, Feb. 21
No. RV Notre Dame vs. George Washington – 11:30 a.m. (ET)
The University of Notre Dame softball team returns to the 2016 tournament circuit this weekend, making its third straight appearance at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California. The Irish will play a total of five games, including two against national top 10 foes, from Friday through Sunday at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex.
No. RV Notre Dame (3-2) begins the Mary Nutter Classic on Friday at 4 p.m. (ET) with its first series meeting against Utah Valley at the complex’s Wrigley field. The Irish close the opening day with No. 11/9 Washington (5-0) at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Yankee field.
Notre Dame opens Saturday with a showdown against Cal Poly (3-2) on Fenway field at 1 p.m. (ET), followed by a clash with No. 8/7 UCLA (4-1) at Wrigley at 6 p.m. (ET). The game against UCLA will mark the fourth meeting between the Irish and Bruins since the 2014 NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Easton Stadium.
The fifth and final Notre Dame game of the Mary Nutter Classic features the Irish and George Washington (0-0) squaring off in an 11:30 a.m. (ET) matchup at Fenway. George Washington is making its 2016 regular season debut after all games at last weekend’s Gardner-Webb Tournament in Boling Springs, North Carolina were rained out.
All five Notre Dame games will have live stats available at UND.com 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 posted a 3-2 (.600) record during last weekend’s Kajikawa Classic in Arizona to officially open the 2016 season. The Irish earned their 12th all-time win in a season-opening contest by beating Utah (2-1 win in eight innings on Feb. 12), and posted a .500 or better record in a season’s first tournament for the fourth straight year.
– Notre Dame’s 2-1 over Utah on Feb. 12 was the third Irish win against a top 25 foe in a season-opening game in program history. Notre Dame previously downed No. 10 Michigan 4-3 in nine innings on Feb. 24, 1995, and shut out No. 6 South Florida 2-0 on Feb. 19, 1999 in previous openers against ranked opponents.
– Utah was the 74th top 25 opponent that Notre Dame has defeated in the past 25 seasons, and the ninth overall ranked foe to fall to the Irish since 2013. The Utes entered the Kajikawa Classic 23rd in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 poll.
– After the first weekend of play, Notre Dame led all ACC teams with 50 hits, five sacrifice hits and 36 pitching strikeouts. The Irish were also in the top five of slugging percentage (.473, third), batting average (.338, fourth), runs (30, fourth), RBI (26, fourth) and on-base percentage (.389, fourth). Three players, freshman Melissa Rochford (.583), freshman Caitlyn Brooks (.538) and junior co-captain Karley Wester (.500), batted above .500 during the Kajikawa Classic.
– 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.
Strong Kajikawa Showing In AZ
Notre Dame opened the 2016 season with a 3-2 record at Arizona State’s Kajikawa Classic, the best Irish record in the tournament since Notre Dame logged a 3-1 mark in Tempe in 1995. The three top 25 teams that were included on the opening tournament slate, No. 18 Kentucky, No. 21 California and No. 23 Utah, tied the 1998 Gladstones Tournament in Tampa, Florida, for the most ranked foes Notre Dame has ever played in an opening weekend.
Notre Dame’s 2-1 win in eight innings against No. 23 Utah on Feb. 12 and 4-2 triumph over BYU after eight frames on Feb. 13 marked just the second time in program history that the team won multiple extra-inning games in the first tournament of a given season (2002). It was believed to be the first time the Irish have ever won twice with walk-off hits in the eighth inning during the same weekend.
Mic Plays The Heroine Back-To-Back
Senior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi batted .471 (8-for-17) with a team-high nine RBI during the Kajikawa Classic to anchor the Notre Dame lineup in the cleanup slot. As part of the strong offensive push, Arizmendi recorded game-winning hits on back-to-back days to claim the first two Irish victories of 2016.
With a runner placed on second base and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning against No. 23 Utah, Arizmendi ripped the first pitch she saw up the middle for a walk-off RBI single and a 2-1 Notre Dame win. During a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth the following day against BYU, Arizmendi blasted a 1-0 pitch over the fence in right field for her first home run of the season and a 4-2 Irish triumph.
Arizmendi is believed to be the first player in program history to log a pair of extra-inning, walk-off hits during the same tournament or weekend series.
Irish Offense Clicks Week 1
During the five-game Kajikawa Classic slate that featured three top 25 opponents, the Notre Dame offense posted a team .338 batting average with 50 hits, 30 runs and 26 RBI. A total of six players, freshman Melissa Rochford (.583), freshman Caitlyn Brooks (.538), junior co-captain Karley Wester (.500), senior Micaela Arizmendi (.471), sophomore Bailey Bigler (.429) and freshman Maddie McCracken (.364) batted higher than .350 in the season’s first tournament.
Wester led all ACC players with 10 hits, which included a pair of doubles, while Rochford’s .706 on-base percentage and Arizmendi’s nine RBI were each conference bests. Brooks’ .923 slugging percentage was among the top 10 totals in the league after the first week.
Freshmen Make Their Mark
During the Kajikawa Classic, the Notre Dame freshman class of MK Bonamy, Caitlyn Brooks, Maddie McCracken, Melissa Rochford and Ali Wester made their presence felt in the Irish lineup. The freshmen batted a combined .383 (23-for-60) with two home runs, 11 RBI and 14 runs scored in their first collegiate tournament.
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 Feb. 8. 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.
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 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 10-13 all-time against its five opponents at this weekend’s Mary Nutter Classic, including a first meeting with Utah Valley.
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.