Feb. 17, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Feb. 17-19, 2017
Dail Softball Stadium
Raleigh, North Carolina
#RV Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(3-2 in 2017)
#13 Minnesota Golden Gophers
(5-0 in 2017)
#11/10 Michigan Wolverines
(3-2 in 2017)
NC State Wolfpack
(2-3 in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
Friday, Feb. 17
Notre Dame vs. No. 13 Minnesota – 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Saturday, Feb. 18
Notre Dame vs. No. 11/10 Michigan – 10 a.m. (ET)
Notre Dame vs. No. 13 Minnesota – 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, Feb. 19
Notre Dame vs. No. 11/10 Michigan – 10 a.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team makes its first appearance in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Irish open a four-game round-robin against Minnesota and Michigan on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (ET) at Dail Stadium, the home of NC State.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame enters 2017 with a 1,149-496-3 (.698) 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 will take part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time this weekend when it travels to NC State to face national top 15 foes Minnesota and Michigan at Dail Softball Stadium. The competition, made popular in men’s and women’s basketball, is entering its second year as a softball event.
– Notre Dame posted a 3-2 weekend record to open the 2017 season, split between the Long Beach State Kickoff Tournament and UCLA’s Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament last weekend in California. Notre Dame posted a .500 or better record in the year’s opening tournament for the fifth consecutive season, earning wins over Weber State and South Dakota in the first official series meetings with both teams.
– Junior infielder Morgan Reed closed the opening Notre Dame weekend a combined 9-for-14 (.643) at the plate with three RBI. Sophomore outfielder/infielder Ali Wester added six hits and four runs scored for the Irish over the first five games.
– Senior captain Karley Wester was named to the Top 50 Watch List for the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award on Feb. 1. Wester earned a spot on the watch list for the third straight preseason, and was a top 10 finalist in 2016 and a top 26 finalist in 2015 for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Wester was invited to January’s USA Softball National Team Selection Camp in Clearwater, Florida.
– 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.
Winning Cali Record Opens 2017
In spite of mixed results in the first West Coast trip of 2017, Notre Dame closed play at the Long Beach State Kickoff Tournament and the UCLA Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament with a 3-2 mark. The Irish racked up wins against Weber State, South Dakota and San Diego State during the opening weekend, dropping a narrow decision in the ninth inning to host Long Beach State on Feb. 10.
Notre Dame has emerged with a record at or above .500 in the opening tournament of each season dating back to the 2013 campaign.
Tough Tourney Sledding Ahead
Beginning with this weekend’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Raleigh, each of the next nine games on the Notre Dame schedule will feature opponents either ranked in or on the cusp of the national top 25 polls. For reference, in a non-conference slate of games since 1995, the most ranked foes the Irish have played consecutively was three in 1996 and again in 2015.
Upcoming Notre Dame opponents include current No. 13 Minnesota (twice), No. 11/10 Michigan (twice), No. RV Texas, No. 17/19 Missouri, No. NR/21 Arizona State, No. 12 Georgia and No. 4/6 Oklahoma.
Irish Against The Big Ten
Entering its first ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Notre Dame brings a rich tradition to the softball diamond against Big Ten foes. Against the current Big Ten membership the Irish own a 110-80 (.579) record, and have faced every league team with the exception of Illinois (only current P5 softball team never to have played Notre Dame).
Reed Rocks Out Of The Gates
Junior infielder Morgan Reed started red hot out of the blocks for the Notre Dame offense during the opening weekend of the 2017 season, batting a team-high .643 (9-for-14) with three RBI, an .857 slugging percentage and two runs over her first five starts.
Reed began the year 2-for-3 with a stolen base against Weber State on Feb. 10, adding two hits, including an RBI triple, and two runs later that day against Long Beach State. She then collected four hits in six at-bats the following day in a sweep of South Dakota and San Diego State before notching a base knock to close the weekend at No. 8 UCLA.
A two-time NFCA all-region and all-ACC selection, Reed has the longest active hit streak among Notre Dame players (nine games) dating back to last season.
Brooks Earns First Collegiate Win
Sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks picked up her first career Notre Dame win in the circle after spinning a gem against South Dakota on Feb. 11.
Brooks tossed a complete game five-hitter against the Coyotes, her first complete game at Notre Dame, and allowed one earned run while striking out two batters for her first collegiate victory. She threw 49 pitches for strikes, and allowed only three baserunners past second base.
Through two appearances thus far in 2017, Brooks is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. She has walked two and struck out five batters, limiting foes to a .229 batting average against.
Irish Freshmen Make Their Debut
Four of Notre Dame’s five 2017 freshmen saw their first collegiate action for the Irish during the season’s opening weekend, with each playing a key role.
Outfielder Alexis Bazos made two game appearances during the opening weekend, scoring her first career run against San Diego State (Feb. 11). Catcher Madison Heide saw action in all five games (three starts) behind the plate, logging her first career hit against Weber State (Feb. 10). Infielder Katie Marino took the field in three games (two starts), picking up her first RBI with a sacrifice fly against San Diego State. Infielder Chelsea Purcell played in four Notre Dame contests (three starts) in her native California, scoring her first run in the win over Weber State.
Infielder Ellie Richards, the only 2017 newcomer yet to officially appear in a game, is back on the practice field recovering from an offseason injury.
Wester In USA Softball POY Top 50
For the third straight year, University of Notre Dame senior captain and two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Karley Wester has been added to the “Watch List” for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, as unveiled by USA Softball on Feb. 1.
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 six 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 and 2016) in previously earning the distinction.
Two different Notre Dame players have been tabbed as finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year 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 and a top 10 award finalist in 2016.
Wester has batted a program best .436 with 258 hits, 93 RBI, 99 stolen bases (Notre Dame record) and 184 runs scored in her first 172 games (171 starts). Wester has paced the ACC in batting average in each of her first three seasons.
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.