Feb. 7, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team will officially return to the diamond this weekend, opening up the 2014 campaign at the Auburn Plainsman Invitational, hosted by Auburn University, at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala.
The Irish are making their first appearance at Auburn since winning a pair of games at the season opening Tiger Invitational in 2007. Notre Dame defeated the host Tigers 3-2 on Feb. 16, 2007, in the first Irish game of the tournament. Notre Dame enters the weekend 4-2 all-time against Auburn (Sunday, 11 a.m. CT), and has won three of the last four meetings between the teams.
Other Notre Dame opponents included in the tournament field are Tennessee Tech (Saturday, 9 a.m. CT, ND leads series 1-0), North Dakota State (Saturday, 1 p.m. CT, ND leads series 2-1) and Morehead State (Sunday, 9 a.m. CT, first meeting between the teams).
Live video of Sunday’s game against Auburn will be available through AuburnTigers.com. Fans can follow live stats for this weekend’s games via CBS GameTracker by visiting UND.com.
Auburn Plainsman Invitational, hosted by Auburn University
February 8-9, 2014
Jane B. Moore Field
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(43-15 overall in 2013)
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
(22-28 overall in 2013)
North Dakota State Bison
(33-16 overall in 2013)
Morehead State Eagles
(24-25 overall in 2013)
(0-0-1 in 2014)
Notre Dame Plainsman Invitational Schedule
IRISH SLAP HITS
– Notre Dame earned its 15th consecutive berth to NCAA Regional play after claiming a runner-up finish at the 2013 BIG EAST Conference Championship in Tampa, Fla. The Irish logged the 15th 40-win season in program history after compiling a 43-15 record, including a 19-3 mark to win the BIG EAST regular-season championship.
– Notre Dame claimed 13 BIG EAST regular-season championships in 18 seasons as a conference member. Head coach Deanna Gumpf led the Irish to seven regular season titles in the last 12 seasons.
– Outfielder Emilee Koerner was named to the espnW 2014 preseason All-America softball first team on Tuesday. Koerner ended her standout sophomore season by being named a top 10 finalist for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award and an NFCA All-America second team selection after finishing with a .439 batting average, a single-season team record 21 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 51 runs scored.
– Laura Winter was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year at the conference’s annual end of the year awards banquet. Winter, the first pitcher in Notre Dame history to earn the league’s top individual honor, led all BIG EAST players with 14 wins in the circle, nine home runs, 37 RBI and a .922 slugging percentage in 22 conference starts.
– Notre Dame is one of three teams making its debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this season, with the others also having strong BIG EAST ties, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Irish are an impressive 105-22 (.827) against the other 10 teams that comprise the ACC membership.
– The previous two times that Notre Dame made a transition to a new league, the first season as a new conference member immediately paid dividends for the Irish. In the program’s first season as a Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) member in 1989, Notre Dame compiled a 31-23 regular season and an 8-5 conference clip to win the regular-season championship. When the Irish moved to the BIG EAST Conference in 1996, NFCA Hall of Fame coach Liz Miller led Notre Dame to a then program record 48 wins and the BIG EAST South Division title.
The Journey Begins…
Notre Dame will officially begin its first season as an Atlantic Coast Conference member with this weekend’s tournament appearance at the Auburn Plainsman Invitational. The ACC is the third different conference the Irish have competed in during their first 26 years at the varsity level.
Notre Dame won five tournament championships as a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League), including the final three the team took part in from 1993-95. The Irish added six BIG EAST Championship titles during their 18 years as a conference affiliate from 1996-2013.
Irish In The National Eye Early
Leading up to the start of the 2014 season, senior pitcher Laura Winter and junior All-American outfielder Emilee Koerner have already drawn a number of headlines nationally.
Koerner, a 2013 top 10 finalist for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award, joined Winter as part of the top 50 watch list for the 2014 award as was announced by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball on Jan. 29. The award recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players from across the United States each year.
Koerner also added to her preseason haul by being selected to the espnW preseason All-America first team on Feb. 4, along with 11 other top softball players from around the country.
ND Picked 3rd In Preseason ACC Poll
Notre Dame received a total of 80 voting points to finish third in the league standings in the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) preseason coaches poll, the conference office announced on Feb. 3.
Set to begin their first season as an ACC member, the Irish trailed only defending ACC regular-season champion Florida State (98 points, eight first-place votes) and defending ACC tournament champion North Carolina State (87 points, three first-place votes) in the preseason predicted order of finish. The league’s 11 head coaches each cast a ballot for the poll, and were not able to include their own team.
Notre Dame was also in the receiving votes category of both the USA Today/NFCA Division I and ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 preseason polls that were released last week.
Oh Captain, Our Captain
Notre Dame senior infielder Chloe Saganowich was selected as the unanimous 2014 Irish team captain by her teammates in November.
Saganowich is the 51st different captain in team history, and will be just the fifth player to serve as a singular captain in the program’s 26 seasons of varsity competition. She will also hold the distinction of being the first ACC era Notre Dame softball team captain during the inaugural campaign for the program in its new conference.
Offensively, Saganowich finished 2013 with career-highs in home runs (3) and RBI (18), and tied a career-best with six doubles. Saganowich batted .304 over 22 games in BIG EAST play, chipping in four doubles, eight RBI and four runs scored.
The Treasure Island, Fla., native was selected to the 2013 BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament team after leading Notre Dame with a .556 batting average and adding a home run, two RBI and three runs in three tournament starts. Saganowich was also an all-BIG EAST second team choice in 2012, a two-time BIG EAST Academic All-Star (2012-13), and has participated in Notre Dame’s Rosenthal Leadership Academy for the past two years.
Schedule Full Of The Nation’s Elite
Notre Dame will be tested early and often this season, not only with the move to its new conference but in the tournament schedule as well. Notre Dame will square off with a total of 10 teams that also reached last year’s NCAA Regionals, including three Super Regional teams.
Current ranked opponents on the 2014 Notre Dame schedule include #8 Oregon (Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, Feb. 23), #12/15 Florida State (April 13-14 at Melissa Cook Stadium), #17/14 Missouri (Jacksonville University Tournament, Feb. 15-16), #18/19 Louisville (Jacksonville University Tournament) and #24 California (Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic).
Living In Room .300
For the fourth consecutive season, Notre Dame surpassed the .300 team batting average plateau in 2013, finishing with a .314 clip last year. The 2013 Irish were just the ninth Notre Dame squad all-time to bat above .300, with the .314 mark being the fourth-best in program history.
Five Notre Dame players, Emilee Koerner (.439), Kelsey Thornton (.354), Laura Winter (.338), Jenna Simon (.316) and Amy Buntin (.311), all finished with a personal average of .300 or higher last season. Lauren Stuhr (.294) and Cassidy Whidden (.287) were each within striking distance of the mark as well in 2013.
Irish Attack With Two Outs
Of the team’s 293 total RBI during the 2013 campaign, and impressive 112 runs were batted in by Notre Dame hitters with two outs on the board. Conversely, Irish opponents managed only 49 RBI with two away in a given inning.
Cassidy Whidden led all Notre Dame players with 26 two-out RBI (out of her 31 total), with Laura Winter right behind with 20 runs driven in with the Irish facing their last out. Amy Buntin and Katey Haus (13) and Emilee Koerner (11) also finished with double-digit RBI counts with two outs.
Defense Wins Championships
For the third time in four years, the Irish finished 2013 among the national top 25 teams in fielding percentage, posting a .971 team clip over 58 games. Notre Dame logged a program record .978 fielding percentage in 2010 to start the string, the fifth-best total in the NCAA that season.
No Notre Dame regular starter posted lower than a .930 fielding percentage in 2013, with five players recording a clip of .975 or higher during the season.
Irish Against the ACC
While it might be the team’s first official season competing in the ACC, Notre Dame has enjoyed a significant amount of success against the current ACC membership all-time. The Irish are 105-22 (.827) against their 10 counterparts in the ACC, including double-digit win totals over four new league foes.
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant