May 9, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame at ACC Championship
May 11-13, 2017
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
No. 5 Seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(32-20, 13-11 ACC in 2017)
Notre Dame ACC Championship Schedule
Thursday, May 11
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Boston College – 1:30 p.m. (ET)/RSN-ACCN
Friday, May 12
ACC Semifinal – 1 p.m. (ET)/RSN-ACCN
Saturday, May 13
ACC Championship Game – 2 p.m. (ET)/ESPN
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the fourth straight season, the University of Notre Dame softball team embarks on its postseason journey at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Softball Championship. The Irish and seven other teams will vie for the title of ACC champion this weekend at Anderson Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Notre Dame kicks off ACC Championship play with a rematch against Boston College on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (ET) inside Anderson Stadium. Coverage will be available on the Regional Sports Network (RSN) and ACC Network Extra.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame has amassed a 1,178-514-3 (.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 qualified for the ACC Softball Championship for the fourth time in as many seasons after clinching the fifth seed in the 2017 ACC Championship. The Irish have previously finished as a tournament finalist in both 2014 and 2016.
– The 2017 ACC Championship will mark just the third time (1995-Detroit Mercy; 2014-Boston College) Notre Dame is set to open a conference tournament with a rematch against that year’s final regular season opponent.
– Entering the ACC Championship, Notre Dame has notched 14 wins as a result of its final plate appearances of a game in 2017. Included in that tally were 10 Irish wins earned after entering the seventh inning tied or trailing, following a walk-off RBI single from Karley Wester in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the series against Boston College on May 7.
– An RBI double by Sara White in the bottom of the sixth inning lifted Notre Dame to a 6-5 win over No. 24 Arkansas on April 29 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish claimed their first home win over a Southeastern Conference (SEC) foe in program history with the victory. Notre Dame softball raised more than $42,000 during its seventh annual Strikeout Cancer series.
– Notre Dame has won 10 of its last 11 games against Boston College dating back to the 2013 season after a series victory May 5-7.
– Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 29th straight season with a .500 record or better with a 6-5 win over Western Michigan on April 19. 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.
Irish End Senior Weekend On High Note With Wild Win
In a series that featured six momentum-shifting lead changes, the weekend three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) set between Notre Dame and Boston College was not short on drama. Deadlocked at 9-9 in the bottom of the seventh in the May 7 rubber match, Notre Dame senior captain Karley Wester drilled a walk-off RBI single to complete a 10-9 Irish comeback in front of an energized Senior Day crowd at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The winning team in each game of the three-game series erased a deficit of three or more runs in victory, with Notre Dame overcoming a 4-0 and 7-3 scenario on Sunday after trailing 3-0 after the first inning of the opening game on May 5 (a 7-3 Irish win).
Reed’s Heroics Cap Irish Nonconference Home Schedule
A game-winning two-run double down the line at third by Morgan Reed was the latest clutch hit for the Notre Dame junior infielder. Reed’s walk-off rip capped a late Irish comeback to stun Butler 4-3 on May 3 in the final 2017 nonconference game at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Notre Dame wore its navy blue uniforms with orange accents in honor of Brody Stephens, an 8-year-old two-time leukemia survivor who died on April 29 as a result of a viral complication from his battle with pediatric cancer. Along with sporting their traditional Strikeout Cancer jerseys, belts and stirrups, the Irish adorned the Melissa Cook Stadium backstop with the saying `Brody Strong’ in memory of the New Palestine native and Riley Hospital for Children patient.
Karley Wester’s Last Stand
The final 10 games of the regular season career of Notre Dame captain Karley Wester mirrored much of her historic career manning the outfield for the Irish in each contest since the start of the 2014 campaign. Wester batted .514 over her final 10 starts, adding three RBI, nine stolen bases and 13 runs from the leadoff spot of the Notre Dame lineup.
Wester, the active hits in NCAA Division I softball with 320 as of May 9, also holds the Notre Dame career records for runs scored (224) and stolen bases (127).
Cait Makes Her Mark In Unique Role
Appearing as a pinch hitter for just the second time in her Notre Dame career, Caitlyn Brooks delivered when it mattered most for the Irish in the series finale against Boston College on May 7.
Entering a 7-7 game with two outs and the bases loaded against the Eagles in the bottom of the fourth inning, Brooks blasted a two-run single off the left field fence that vaulted Notre Dame to its first lead of the day at 9-7. After Boston College and Notre Dame headed to the bottom of the seventh tied once more, Brooks grooved a 3-1 pitch to the gap in right center for a leadoff double to start the Irish rally. A wild pitch and Karley Wester walk-off RBI single later, Brooks crossed home plate as the winning run of the 10-9 Notre Dame comeback on Senior Day.
Irish Remain Calm, Yet Offensive, At The End
With an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning that lifted Notre Dame past Boston College on May 7 in the regular season finale, the Irish have now won 14 games as a result of their final inning at the plate thus far in 2017.
Notre Dame has earned 10 victories in the seventh inning or later after entering the frame either trailing or tied, including five bottom of the seventh walk-offs. The Irish have added three run-rule walk-offs in the bottom of fifth innings during home games.
The Irish opened the season with a win thanks to a bottom of the seventh wild pitch to defeat Weber State 2-1 on Feb. 10. Katie Marino struck for Notre Dame on Feb. 25, delivering a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning of a 5-4 win over No. 4 Oklahoma. A fielder’s choice and error in the top of the eighth capped the Notre Dame tournament comebacks during a 5-3 win over FIU on March 4.
At the conclusion of a wild three-game conference series at Georgia Tech, Morgan Reed established a Notre Dame single-game record with eight RBI thanks to a grand slam in the top of the eighth in an 8-6 win over the Yellow Jackets on March 12. The opening Irish home game of 2017 against Michigan State (March 22) ended at 11-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to an RBI single from Madison Heide. Notre Dame’s homestand featured a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning that secured a 9-1 Irish win in game two against Virginia Tech on March 24.
Melissa Rochford, whose two-run double with two outs in the top of the seventh inning tied the aforementioned FIU contest, struck again in the opening game of a three-game series at Louisville on April 1. Rochford’s two-run single with two away in the top of the seventh vaulted Notre Dame to a 5-4 win over the Cardinals. Rochford followed up in the subsequent ACC series against North Carolina on April 8, singling in the bottom of the seventh frame for a 2-1 Notre Dame win.
Kimmy Sullivan continued her hot hitting at Melissa Cook Stadium on April 12, depositing a walk-off, three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning of a 13-4 win over IUPUI. Reed returned with a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning later in the week during game one of a series at NC State on April 14, with the big fly ultimately guiding Notre Dame over the Wolfpack 4-3. Caitlyn Brooks connected on the ultimate game-winning RBI double to score Reed from second in the 10-2 win at Northwestern on April 25.
Reed struck for the third time in the seventh inning or later in 2017 on May 3, ripping a full-count pitch down the line at third base to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 4-3 win over Butler. Karley Wester was able to play the hero in her final career plate appearance at Melissa Cook Stadium against Boston College on May 7, ripping a walk-off single off the wall in center to score Brooks and clinch a 10-9 comeback win for the Irish.
Irish Again Knock Strikeout Cancer Out Of The Park
The seventh annual Strikeout Cancer series and weekend for the Notre Dame softball program upheld its tradition of fun, fellowship and funds raised for pediatric cancer patients. Irish softball accrued some $42,000 from the event’s Friday trivia night and Saturday doubleheader the weekend of April 28-29 against No. 24 Arkansas, with proceeds directly benefitting families of children battling cancer.
Since the inception of the Strikeout Cancer initiative in 2011, Notre Dame softball has raised more than $200,000 for patients fighting pediatric cancer.
Irish Against The ACC
Taking into account all prior games, including those before joining the league, Notre Dame is a combined 174-66 (.725) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame owns a 105-56 (.652) cumulative all-time record against potential opponents at this weekend’s ACC Championship. The Irish improved to 27-7 (.794) against Boston College by taking two out of three games in the final ACC series of 2017.
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.