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Irish Softball Returns To The Diamond For Seven Fall Starts

Sept. 1, 2017

by Tony Jones

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With fall practice in full swing as the calendar rolls over to September, fans will have the chance to catch the University of Notre Dame softball team in action during seven games on the 2017 Irish autumn docket. Notre Dame will also play host to five games at Melissa Cook Stadium as part of its fall slate.

The 2017 fall schedule kicks off for Notre Dame at Illinois State on Sept. 24, when the Irish and Redbirds meet in a 1 p.m. (ET) doubleheader at Kneer Stadium in Normal, Illinois. It will be the first fall road trip for Notre Dame since the Irish played at UIC in September of 2015, and the only games for the Irish away from Melissa Cook Stadium this fall. In past regular season meetings between the clubs, Notre Dame owns a 6-3 record against Illinois State. The Irish were victorious in their only in-season trip to Normal, a 5-3 win on April 4, 1993.

Notre Dame opens the home portion of its schedule on Oct. 1, welcoming Ball State to Melissa Cook Stadium for a noon doubleheader. The Irish own an 11-5 record against Ball State in-season during the series history between the teams, most recently downing the Cardinals 7-1 on March 6, 2016, at the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Classic in Fort Myers, Florida. Ball State head coach and Notre Dame two-time All-American Megan Ciolli Bartlett (’05) returns to her alma mater for the first time at the helm of the Cardinals for the fall twin bill. Ciolli Bartlett remains one of the most decorated players in Irish history, ranking among the career top 10 in batting average, hits, runs scored and stolen bases while patrolling the Notre Dame outfield from 2002-05.

A three-team, round-robin of game is set to follow on Oct. 7, as Notre Dame opens the friendly confines of Melissa Cook Stadium to Alabama-Huntsville (noon) and Western Michigan (4:30 p.m.). The two visiting teams will square off in a third game of the day at approximately 2:15 p.m. Alabama-Huntsville is one of the top teams in the Gulf South Conference of Division II, with eight conference tournament titles to go along with 20 NCAA tournament appearances and a pair of national championship series (2009 and 2011) berths on its all-time ledger. Notre Dame and Western Michigan have enjoyed a lengthy softball regional rivalry since 1992, with the Irish leading the all-time series against the Broncos 29-6 in-season.

Notre Dame concludes its 2017 fall schedule in primetime, squaring off with Loyola on Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. inside Melissa Cook Stadium. One of the longest series for Notre Dame since the program attained varsity status in 1989, the Irish own a 33-7-1 mark against the Ramblers during spring matchups. Notre Dame and Loyola have not officially met in the regular season since an 8-0 Irish win on April 13, 2011, despite the teams playing each fall since 2014.

Notre Dame returns 14 letterwinners from its 19th consecutive (22nd overall) NCAA Championship qualifier last season for 2018, including three players who earned both all-conference and all-region recognition. The Irish returnees are joined by a dynamic freshman class that features four players ranked among the top 150 players nationally in the high school class of 2017 by FloSoftball, a pair of Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) Regional All-America selections, and two Gatorade High School Players of the Year from the states of Indiana and Pennsylvania.

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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.