March 24, 2016
by Tony Jones
#19/17 Notre Dame at Syracuse
March 25-26, 2016
Skytop Softball Stadium
Syracuse, New York
#19/17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(23-3, 3-0 ACC)
(14-14, 1-5 ACC)
Notre Dame-Syracuse ACC Weekend Schedule
Friday, March 25
Saturday, March 26
Following a successful two-game nonconference homestand to begin the 2016 Melissa Cook Stadium schedule, the University of Notre Dame softball team heads back to the road for Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play this weekend. The Irish make their first trip to the state of New York since 2011, colliding with Syracuse at the Skytop Softball Stadium on Friday and Saturday.
No. 19/17 Notre Dame (23-3) enters the pre-Easter ACC set sporting 19 consecutive wins dating back to Feb. 20, and opened conference action with a three-game sweep at Virginia on March 12-13. The Irish have won or split each of their last six ACC series dating back to March of 2015.
Included in that Notre Dame conference success streak was a three-game sweep of Syracuse (14-14) on April 18-19, 2015 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish disposed of the Orange 10-5 in five innings, 7-6 and 12-0 in five innings in the most recent series meeting between the teams.
Notre Dame is 23-5 all-time against Syracuse dating back to when both programs were mainstays of the former BIG EAST Conference. The Irish are 8-2 in prior trips to the Skytop Softball Stadium since 2001.
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 won its 19th straight game, and second in a row at home, by defeating Eastern Michigan 10-2 on March 22 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish enjoyed another dynamic first inning in the contest against the Eagles, scoring four runs out of the gate to power the victory.
– Notre Dame has now won 15 straight nonconference home games in the regular season dating back to March of 2013. Since a defeat at DePaul on April 4, 2014, the Irish have won 17 straight midweek contests overall.
– Notre Dame opened ACC play a perfect 3-0 for the first time since joining the conference prior to the 2014 season with a three-game sweep at Virginia on March 12-13. The Irish have swept a season’s first conference series on 18 occasions during the program’s 28-year history.
– In Thursday’s release of updated ACC softball statistics, Notre Dame boasted a conference-best four players in the top 10 of cumulative batting average amongst all league hitters. Junior co-captain Karley Wester was second in the ACC with a .470 average, while freshman Melissa Rochford was third at a .466 clip. Freshman Ali Wester was fourth with a .440 average, and sophomore Bailey Bigler checked in ninth at .397.
– Notre Dame’s current 19-game winning streak was the longest in the ACC as of March 24. The 23-3 record for Notre Dame matches the best start in the history of the program, equaling the first 26 results of the historic 2001 Irish squad that won a team record 54 games that season.
– With its 10-2 win over Eastern Michigan on March 22, Notre Dame scored 10 or more runs in a game for the seventh time in 2016 (third straight).
– 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 Runs Its Win Streak To 19
Home has certainly been where the heart is thus far for Notre Dame at Melissa Cook Stadium. For the second straight contest inside their friendly confines the Irish scored 10 runs to secure a five-inning victory, downing Eastern Michigan 10-2 on a sunny Tuesday night on the Notre Dame campus.
The Irish claimed their 15th straight nonconference regular season game at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to 2013, outhitting Eastern Michigan 11-4 on the day and finishing with seven two-out RBI.
Irish Remain Hot Inside The Confines Of The Cooker
Notre Dame’s 10-2 nonconference win over Eastern Michigan was the 15th consecutive nonconference victory in the regular season by the Irish at home since 2013. In fact, Notre Dame has compiled one of the best home stretches in program history by posting a 35-8 (.814) overall mark at Melissa Cook Stadium in that span.
Since the stadium opened for play during the 2008 campaign Notre Dame is an impressive 125-21-1 (.854) at home, including regular and postseason games.
Wester Races Toward Another Mark
With a fifth-inning stolen base on March 22 against Eastern Michigan, junior co-captain Karley Wester joined two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05) and Jenna Simon (’15) as the third Notre Dame player to steal 76 career bases. Wester tied her fellow Irish greats in only 137 career games, while Simon suited up 223 times and Ciolli appeared in 242 contests at Notre Dame.
Wester previously 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 44 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 212. 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 47 hits through her first 26 starts this season.
Already the Notre Dame career leader in both batting average (.447) and on-base percentage (.499), Wester has also risen to 10th on the runs scored list (150) thus far in her junior campaign.
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 on March 12-13.
Notre Dame kept its momentum rolling by 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.
Bailey Has Been Big(ler) For ND
Limited to only seven games (one start) due to injury as a freshman in 2015, sophomore outfielder Bailey Bigler has returned to the diamond in style for Notre Dame this season.
Through 23 games and 20 starts, Bigler is batting .397 with two doubles, two triples, 11 RBI and 20 runs scored as a bookend to the Irish lineup, adding in four stolen bases. Hitting in the number nine spot alone, Bigler has a .422 average with all 11 of her RBI and 18 runs scored in 16 starts.
Rochford Does It All Last 10 Games
Freshman Melissa Rochford has arguably been Notre Dame’s most complete hitter throughout the team’s first 26 games of 2016, and in her past 10 starts the Irish third baseman has further staked her claim to that distinction.
Rochford is batting an even .500 (16-for-32) with two doubles, one home run, 15 RBI and 12 runs scored since March 5. She’s also drawn five walks and been hit by one pitch to reach base at an impressive .564 clip in that span.
So Many Runs, So Few Games
Notre Dame enters Friday’s opening game at Syracuse as not only the ACC leader in team batting average (.359) and hits (273), but the Irish also pace the conference with 203 runs and 181 runs batted in. The majority of that production has been concentrated among the top sixth of the Notre Dame lineup through 26 starts.
Junior co-captain Karley Wester, freshman Ali Wester, freshman Melissa Rochford, freshman Caitlyn Brooks, senior Micaela Arizmendi and sophomore Morgan Reed have combined to hit a collective .397 with 48 extra-base hits, 136 RBI and 138 runs scored among themselves. Thanks to the exploits of the Westers (Karley 24, Ali 12), the top six has swiped 41 of Notre Dame’s 50 total stolen bases.
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 149-47 (.760) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 23-5 (.821) all-time against Syracuse, winning nine of the past 11 matchups against the Orange since 2009.
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.