April 19, 2016
by Tony Jones
#19/20 Notre Dame vs. Western Michigan and Valparaiso
April 19-20, 2016
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
#19/20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Western Michigan Broncos
Notre Dame Midweek Schedule
Tuesday, April 19
Wednesday, April 20
With another Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) road trip awaiting next weekend, the University of Notre Dame softball team returns home for a pair of midweek contests at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish are set to meet Western Michigan on Tuesday at 6 p.m. (ET), with Valparaiso scheduled to visit Melissa Cook Stadium on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Both games will stream live on WatchND.
No. 19/20 Notre Dame (32-6) carries a seven-game winning streak into the midweek showdowns after sweeping a three-game ACC series at Virginia Tech. The Irish are 5-0 in nonconference play thus far in 2016 at Melissa Cook Stadium, outscoring opponents 41-5 in previous games.
Notre Dame downed Western Michigan (18-19) 10-2 in six innings on April 7, 2015 in the most recent series meeting between the teams, a series that the Irish lead 27-6 all-time. Notre Dame and Valparaiso (9-26) are set to play for the first time since April 24, 2014, a 7-2 Notre Dame win to extend the Irish series advantage to 34-2.
Along with live video coverage on WatchND, live stats will be available for both games 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 has won 18 straight nonconference home games in the regular season dating back to March of 2013 after a 5-0 shutout of Butler on April 14. Including the 2016 tournament schedule, Notre Dame has downed 19 consecutive nonconference opponents since Feb. 20.
– Notre Dame ran its current winning streak to seven games with a weekend sweep over Virginia Tech at Tech Softball Park in Blacksburg. The Irish downed the Hokies 3-0, 7-5 and 5-3 to secure their second Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series sweep of 2016. It was the first Notre Dame series sweep at Tech Softball Park since 2001, when both teams were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
– Notre Dame broke a third place tie with Virginia Tech in the ACC standings to move into solo second place in the conference with its three weekend victories. The Irish have finished among the top three teams in the final BIG EAST and ACC league standings in each of the past seven seasons dating back to 2009.
– Sophomore Bailey Bigler and senior Allie Rhodes swept the most recent ACC weekly awards on April 18, with Bigler claiming conference player and Rhodes conference pitcher of the week honors. Bigler and Rhodes are the first Notre Dame pair to sweep the ACC citations since the final week of the 2014 regular season.
– Junior co-captain Karley Wester was named one of the Top 25 Finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for the second straight season, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced on April 13. Wester is the third Notre Dame player in the last four seasons to be considered for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award after being named one of 26 finalists in 2015, joining three-time All-American and Top 10 Finalist Emilee Koerner (’15) in 2013.
– Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 28th straight season with a .500 record or better with an 11-3 win in five innings over IUPUI on April 5 at Melissa Cook Stadium. Notre Dame’s three-time national champion women’s soccer program has also logged 28 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
Irish Claim Crucial ACC Sweep Over Hokies
Much as it notched two wins during the first day of play at Tech Softball Park, Notre Dame seemed to have the answer for Virginia Tech. A 13-hit performance, which featured two runs in the fifth and sixth innings, guided the Irish to a 5-3 win on April 17 to complete an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series sweep.
Notre Dame secured its second conference sweep of 2016 by taking three games against Virginia Tech, outscoring the Hokies 15-8 during the weekend set. The Irish also finished with a 28-13 overall edge in hits.
Bigler, Rhodes Earn ACC Weekly Honors
Notre Dame sophomore outfielder Bailey Bigler and senior pitcher Allie Rhodes served as key components to an undefeated run through the last week of play for the Irish softball team. The ACC recognized the efforts of both Notre Dame standouts on April 18, naming Bigler the ACC Softball Player of the Week and Rhodes the ACC Pitcher of the Week.
The player of the week accolade was the first career ACC weekly honor for Bigler, while Rhodes was previously tabbed the conference’s top pitcher on March 7. Bigler became the seventh Notre Dame selection as the ACC’s top weekly player since the Irish joined the conference in 2014, while Rhodes’ nod was the ninth such citation earned by a member of the Notre Dame pitching staff.
The dual awards marked the second time that Notre Dame has swept the weekly ACC softball honors in its three seasons as a conference member. Three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) and four-time all-conference first team pitcher Laura Winter (’14) were the final ACC weekly award honorees of the 2014 campaign on May 5 of that year.
Bigler made a profound impact as the top Notre Dame hitter during a 4-0 week that included a three-game sweep at Virginia Tech, batting 6-for-9 (.667) against three-time ACC Pitcher of the Week Maggie Tyler, alone. Rhodes was a stalwart in the circle for Notre Dame during the unbeaten week, going 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three starts. Opponents batted just .153 against Rhodes in 18 innings, scoring two runs (one earned) while striking out 24 times.
Irish Add Virginia Tech To Consecutive Sweep List
Notre Dame’s three-game series win at Virginia Tech clinched the third different consecutive regular season sweep for the Irish since joining the ACC in 2014.
The Irish won all three games they played against Boston College at Melissa Cook Stadium in May of 2014 and in Chestnut Hill in April of 2015. Notre Dame took three wins from Pittsburgh at Vartabedian Field in April of 2015 and earned a lone victory in a rain-shortened series earlier this season on April 10. Virginia Tech joined the list after dropping three March contests to Notre Dame at Melissa Cook Stadium last season.
Defense Wins Series In Blacksburg
Stellar pitching provided Notre Dame with the opportunity to break through with key situational hits in each of its three wins at Virginia Tech in ACC play, but hidden within the box scores were extraordinary defensive efforts in the field to hold the Hokie offense at bay inside the Tech Softball Park.
Junior co-captain Karley Wester made a fantastic over the shoulder catch at the center field wall with two on and one out in the bottom of the first inning against Virginia Tech in the opening series game, not only taking away what looked to be sure extra bases but doubling off the trailing runner at first base to end the inning. Freshman Melissa Rochford added a sprawling stop of a hotshot ground ball toward the five-six hole in the bottom of the sixth inning, popping up and firing across the diamond for the final out to set the stage for a three-run Notre Dame top of the seventh and 3-0 Irish win.
In the Saturday nightcap against the Hokies ACC Player of the Week Bailey Bigler made one of several key outfield catches during the weekend. The sophomore left fielder laid out on a two-out shot destined for the left center gap in the bottom of the sixth to help preserve a 6-5 Notre Dame advantage.
Senior Megan Sorlie provided the coup de grace in Sunday’s series finale following a Virginia Tech home run that trimmed the Notre Dame lead to 5-3. Sorlie robbed what could ultimately have been a deciding run by stealing a destined double to the right center gap in the bottom of the seventh to once more stun the Hokies.
Wester Again A USA Softball POY Top 25 Finalist
Junior co-captain Karley Wester was named one of the Top 25 Finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for the second straight season on April 13. Wester is the first Notre Dame finalist in consecutive seasons in the history of the award (Top 26 Finalist in 2015).
ND Against Fellow Hoosiers
Notre Dame improved to 12-1 in its last 13 games against fellow Indiana teams at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to the 2011 season with a 5-0 victory over Butler on April 14.
The Irish have outscored Hoosier state foes by a combined run count of 101-25 on the Notre Dame campus over the past five seasons entering Wednesday’s showdown with Valparaiso.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 27-6 (.818) all-time against Western Michigan, winning 14 of the past 15 meetings with the Broncos dating back to the 2004 season. The Irish are 34-2 (.944) in their first 36 meetings with Valparaiso on the verge of Wednesday’s contest, claiming 33 straight wins against the Crusaders since the 1989 campaign.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director 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.