Jan. 12, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The calendar has flipped to 2015, and despite the snow covered ground on the University of Notre Dame campus, collegiate softball season is right around the corner. Returning from a month-long, end of semester holiday vacation, the Irish softball team held the first official squad practice of the new year on Monday afternoon.
A run test in the Loftus Sports Center transitioned to a brief team hitting session inside the indoor batting cages at the Frank Eck Baseball Stadium. Notre Dame closed the day with full team drills on the turf field at the Loftus Sports Center.
“Even though we really haven’t played as a team in over two months, I think that they’ve done a great job preparing,” Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “If someone were to watch us they wouldn’t realize we were only doing individuals over the past two months, before being out of school the last month for the semester break.
“The girls came back and did a great job of attacking the first day, and came ready to play,” Gumpf added. “They all are in great shape, and it looks like they’re ready to go.”
Notre Dame capped its fall slate of games and full team practice sessions in mid October, with individual position group training and team workouts continuing later into the semester. Coming together on the makeshift FieldTurf diamond on Monday, the Irish looked to have hardly skipped a beat since finishing their seven-game autumn schedule, six of which were held at Melissa Cook Stadium.
“The great thing about this team is that they buy into each other,” Gumpf said. “When a team buys into each other it’s really easy to motivate them, like it was today. They all understand their purpose and why they are here, and they want to do it for each other, together.”
Irish upperclassmen bring a cumulative .374 batting average, 293 runs, 425 hits (including 79 doubles) and 258 RBI from the 2014 season, Notre Dame’s first as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), into the fold this spring. A total of 10 of the 11 returning Irish field players batted at a .295 clip or higher last year during a 41-13 campaign (16-5 ACC) and an NCAA Los Angeles Regional berth.
Strong leadership from its four-player senior class, specifically Granger native Jenna Simon and two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Emilee Koerner as co-captains, will help expedite the process during Notre Dame’s brief preparation period. Along with Simon and Koerner, four other regular starters are back in 2015 among Notre Dame’s 13 returning monogram winners from last season.
The first tournament challenge of the upcoming season will be a formidable one, as Notre Dame returns to California for the So Cal Collegiate Classic on Feb. 6-8. The Irish will face 2014 NCAA Super Regional qualifier UCLA in the nightcap of the opening day of play after kicking off the season against Utah in Los Angeles. A pair of games against Cal State Fullerton and a showdown with Northwestern State will close the weekend in Fullerton, California.
“It’s a quick turnaround for us, being only three weeks away (from the So Cal Collegiate Classic), and it’s exciting,” Gumpf said. “If we continue to practice like this, we’ll have no worries.”
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, Media Relations Assistant