March 13, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame at Georgia State/Mercer
March 14-15, 2017
Heck Softball Complex/Sikes Field
Atlanta, Georgia/Macon, Georgia
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(11-10 in 2017)
Georgia State Panthers
(16-9 in 2017)
(12-15 in 2017)
Notre Dame Midweek Schedule
Tuesday, March 14
Notre Dame at Georgia State – 5 p.m. (ET)
Wednesday, March 15
Notre Dame at Mercer – 6 p.m. (ET)
ATLANTA – Following the first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series of the season last weekend, the University of Notre Dame softball team heads back to work with a pair of midweek games in the state of Georgia. The Irish are set to make inaugural stops at Georgia State on Tuesday at 5 p.m. (ET), and Mercer in Macon on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame has amassed a 1,157-504-3 (.696) 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 finished an offensive slugfest with Georgia Tech with an 8-6 Sunday victory over the Yellow Jackets. The series is believed to be the first three-game conference set for Notre Dame that went to extra innings in each contest.
– Junior infielder Morgan Reed batted 3-for-4 in Sunday’s series finale at Georgia Tech, smashing two home runs and driving in all eight Notre Dame runs in the victory. Reed’s game-winning grand slam in the top of the eighth inning established an Irish program record eight RBI in a single game.
– Notre Dame’s three wins over national top 15 foes in February were the most by any Irish team in that month in program history. From Feb. 12 at No. 8 UCLA to a Feb. 25 showdown with No. 4/5 Oklahoma, Notre Dame played 10 straight games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the national top 25 polls.
– Notre Dame has 20 wins over ranked foes since 2013, including 10 victories over the top 10, following its 5-4 win over No. 4/5 Oklahoma on Feb. 25. Notre Dame earned its fifth win in series history over Oklahoma, including its fourth when the Sooners have been ranked in the national top 10. The win over the national No. 4 team matched the highest ranked win in program history.
– Notre Dame is set to make its first appearance at Georgia State, meeting the Panthers for just the third time in series history. The Irish downed Georgia State 3-2 on March 13, 2004 in Tallahassee, Florida, and 10-4 on Feb. 14, 2016 in Tempe, Arizona. Notre Dame and Mercer have not met since 1994, with the Irish owning a 2-0 series edge.
– 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.
Wild Finish At Georgia Tech
If the first two games of the series were any indication, a slugfest of epic proportions was likely to break out in Sunday’s series finale between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. An eighth-inning grand slam by Morgan Reed, part of her record eight RBI on the day, proved to be the difference in an 8-6 Irish win over the Yellow Jackets. The Notre Dame triumph closed a wild three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) set at Mewborn Field.
Reed Slugs Her Way Into The Irish Record Book
Morgan Reed enjoyed a pair of stellar offensive starts during Notre Dame’s opening ACC series weekend at Georgia Tech, 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 began the weekend with a 3-for-5 outing, stealing a base and driving in two runs while scoring twice in Saturday’s first game. She then reached base twice in the nightcap against Georgia Tech, scoring one run.
Reed saved the best for last on Sunday, 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 is Notre Dame’s team leader with a .439 average, 29 hits, 21 RBI, a .479 on-base percentage and 16 runs after 21 starts (10 against ranked and RV opponents). She has safely reached base in 19 of 21 Notre Dame games in 2017.
ND Offense Continues To Take Shape
For the second straight weekend, the Notre Dame offense continued its climb from a slow start to the 2017 season with a solid performance at Georgia Tech. The Irish batted .308 as a team against the Yellow Jackets, finishing the weekend with 23 runs on 33 hits, adding 20 team RBI and six stolen bases.
Five Notre Dame players with at least five official at-bats logged averages above .350 in the ACC series with Georgia Tech. Karley Wester led the way with a .467 (7-for-15) clip, adding a solo home run, three steals and five runs. Morgan Reed (two home runs, 10 RBI, five runs) and Caitlyn Brooks (one RBI, .733 OBP, two runs) followed at .429, while Melissa Rochford added four RBI and a run scored to her .417 batting line. Ali Wester batted .375 with two stolen bases, an RBI and a team-high six runs scored in the series.
Patience Is A Virtue
After drawing 28 team walks over its first 18 starts, Notre Dame’s patience at the plate was rewarded during the three-game series at Georgia Tech. Irish hitters were issued 17 free passes in the weekend set alone, part of reaching base at a team .419 clip.
Caitlyn Brooks earned seven walks to assume the Notre Dame team lead with 12 for the season, while Melissa Rochford drew three walks against Georgia Tech. A total of seven Notre Dame batters picked up at least one walk versus the Yellow Jackets.
Rachel Rocks Relief
Making her sixth appearance out of the Notre Dame bullpen in 2017 during the series finale at Georgia Tech, Rachel Nasland continued her steady presence in relief during the Irish victory.
Nasland struck out nine batters in the final five innings on Sunday against the Yellow Jackets, running her season record in relief outings to a perfect 4-0. The senior right-hander has punched out 21 hitters in 19.1 innings of relief this season, limiting the opposition to a .171 batting average against in those outings.
K. Wester Inches Further Toward The Top
Following a seven-hit, five-run weekend at Georgia Tech, senior captain Karley Wester equaled the first major career milestone in her 2017 ascent toward Notre Dame softball history.
Wester enters midweek play a mere eight hits from becoming the all-time Irish softball hit queen, and would supplant a record set by fellow two All-American Megan Ciolli (284) in 2005. Wester is currently tied for second on the hits list with All-American Stephanie Brown (’07) with 277 hits, and recently passed Notre Dame’s only three-time softball All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) and her 274 career base knocks.
The five-run surge to 196 for Wester at Georgia Tech tied her with Koerner (196) for the Notre Dame softball career runs lead. Teammates in 2014 and 2015, Wester and Koerner are 30 runs clear of Brown (166) in third place.
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 nine career steals shy of Stanley’s Irish benchmark with 108 stolen bases in 122 attempts.
Arduous Test Passed By Irish
Over its first 14 contests, Notre Dame played 10 straight games against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in the national top 25 polls at first pitch. The month of February for Notre Dame, from this aspect, featured a stronger strength of schedule than any team currently ranked in the NFCA top 25 coaches poll.
As of March 1, Notre Dame faced nine top 25 opponents, notching three wins against teams in the top 15 (No. 4 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, No. 11 Georgia on Feb. 24, No. 11 Michigan on Feb. 18). The next closest teams to this mark currently ranked in the top 25, UCLA took on seven top 25 foes in the season’s opening month, while Michigan played in five ranked matchups in February.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame enters midweek action a perfect 2-0 all-time against both Georgia State and Mercer, outscoring both foes by an aggregate 29-6 run count.
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.