March 21, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
March 22, 2017
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(12-13 in 2017)
Michigan State Spartans
(15-7 in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekly Schedule
Wednesday, March 22
Notre Dame vs. Michigan State – 4:30 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Friday, March 24
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – 6 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Saturday, March 25
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – 3 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Sunday, March 26
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – Noon (ET)/ACC Network Extra
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team makes its official return to Melissa Cook Stadium on Wednesday, ushering in its 2017 home schedule against Michigan State. The 4:30 p.m. (ET) nonconference game (scheduled start moved ahead 30 minutes due to weather) will air live on ACC Network Extra.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame has amassed a 1,158-507-3 (.695) all-time record, 30 combined conference championships (19 regular season, 11 tournament) and 21 NCAA Regional appearances, which has included 18 straight berths into the NCAA Championship tournament.
– Notre Dame is set to officially open the 2017 season at Melissa Cook Stadium with Wednesday night’s game against Michigan State. The Irish played their first 25 games of the season at either road or neutral sites, winning three games over the initial RPI top 25 (No. 15 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, No. 17 Georgia on Feb. 24 and No. 23 Michigan on Feb. 18).
– Senior outfielder/captain Karley Wester surpassed three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) for the all-time Notre Dame softball runs record, scoring for the 197th time in her career during the top of the seventh inning against Mercer on March 15. Wester also passed All-American Stephanie Brown (’07) for second place on the Irish career hits list, and sits just two base knocks short (283) of leaping past two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05) for the Notre Dame program lead.
– Junior infielder Morgan Reed batted 3-for-4 for the second straight game on Spring Break, scoring two runs at Mercer on March 15. Reed previously smashed two home runs and drove in all eight Notre Dame runs on March 12 at Georgia Tech. Reed’s game-winning grand slam in the top of the eighth inning against the Yellow Jackets established an Irish program record eight RBI in a single game.
– By scoring three times in four plate appearances at Mercer on March 15, sophomore outfielder Ali Wester finished with a team-high nine runs scored on the Notre Dame Spring Break trip. Wester batted .393 with a double, RBI and four stolen bases along with her run total during the Notre Dame road swing.
– 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 a 43-13 final mark to close the 2016 campaign. Notre Dame’s three-time national champion women’s soccer program has logged 29 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
The Wait Is Over
After 25 games on the road to begin the 2017 season, Notre Dame begins its home account with Wednesday night’s midweek affair against Michigan State at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish faced 17 teams ranked in the top 100 of the initial 2017 RPI rankings during their early season road campaign, including 11 matchups with top 25 foes.
Since the stadium officially opened its doors during the 2008 season, Notre Dame has compiled a 136-24-1 (.848) record in home games. The Irish have averaged 15 wins per season at Melissa Cook Stadium during that span, topping out with 20 victories in 2015.
K. Wester Inches Toward ND All-Time Hits Record
Senior captain Karley Wester enters Wednesday’s game with Michigan State a mere two hits from becoming the all-time Irish softball hit queen, and would supplant a record set by fellow two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05, 284) in 2005. Wester currently sits in solo second place on the hits list at 283, and recently passed All-American Stephanie Brown (’07, 277) and Irish softball’s only three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15, 274) on her way up the Notre Dame hits chart.
Coming across as the lead run on a four-base error that began with sister Ali at the plate against Mercer on March 15, Wester officially scored for the 197th time at Notre Dame to surpass the career runs record previously held by Koerner. Teammates in 2014 and 2015, the elder Wester and Koerner are more than 30 runs clear of Brown and her third place run total of 166.
Wester, already the Irish softball career steals leader, joined baseball greats Steve Stanley (1999-2002, 116) and Scott Sollmann (1994-96, 101) as the only players to record 100 or more stolen bases wearing a Notre Dame uniform earlier this season.
With a successful swiped bag in the top of the third inning against No. 4/5 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, Wester passed Sollmann for second place on the all-time Notre Dame stolen bases list with her 102nd steal. She sits just eight career steals shy of eclipsing Stanley’s Irish benchmark with 109 stolen bases in 124 attempts.
Reed’s Solid Spring Break
Morgan Reed enjoyed a pair of stellar offensive starts during Notre Dame’s opening conference series weekend at Georgia Tech on March 11-12, including a historic Sunday performance in Atlanta. Reed batted .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs, 10 RBI, a stolen base and five runs scored in the weekend set, walking twice to reach base at a .500 clip. She was also perfect in eight field chances split between shortstop and second base.
Reed saved the best for last in the Sunday series finale, tying the game with a two-run home run in the third inning, giving Notre Dame the lead with a two-run single in the fifth inning, and breaking a 4-all tie in the eighth inning with a two-out, game-winning grand slam as part of reaching four times in five plate appearances. Reed’s eight RBI in game three established a program record, capping one of the best single-game offensive performances in Notre Dame’s 29-year history.
Reed batted .385 with four extra-base hits, 10 RBI and seven runs scored in seven starts on Spring Break. Reed is Notre Dame’s team leader with a .423 average, 33 hits, 21 RBI and a .465 on-base percentage after 25 starts (17 against the initial RPI top 100). She has safely reached base in 22 of 25 Notre Dame games in 2017.
The Resurgent ND 1-2 Punch
After a five-game reshuffling of the Notre Dame batting order just prior to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in February, outfielders Karley Wester and Ali Wester returned to the first and second slots in the Irish attack that they held for all 56 games of 2016. The reformation of the Wester tandem has paid dividends for Notre Dame ever since.
In the last 14 games dating back to a showdown with Arizona State on Feb. 24, Karley Wester is batting a team-high .444 with 24 hits, six RBI, a .464 on-base percentage, eight stolen bases and 13 runs scored leading off. Ali Wester has chipped in three RBI, four stolen bases and 13 runs scored in that span in the two-hole, adding 25 putouts and an assist in left field.
Irish Against The Big Ten
Entering Wednesday’s game against Michigan State, Notre Dame brings a lengthy tradition to the softball diamond against Big Ten foes. Against the current Big Ten membership the Irish own a 112-82 (.577) record, and have faced every league team with the exception of Illinois (only current P5 softball team never to have played Notre Dame).
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame holds a 9-1 (.900) all-time edge in its series against Michigan State, outscoring the Spartans by a 55-15 aggregate run count in a series that dates back to 1993.
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.
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 Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.