March 1, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team will make its third straight trip to the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla., this weekend. The Irish went 3-1 during the 2012 Citrus Classic.
Notre Dame (8-5) is set to open its tournament schedule Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Boston College (3-2). The game will be televised on ESPN3.com. The Irish close the day with a showdown against Georgia Tech (9-7) at 4:45 p.m. Live audio will be available at www.ramblinwreck.com/allaccess.
LIU Brooklyn (2-12) awaits Notre Dame on Sunday at the Citrus Classic, with first pitch set for 11:15 a.m. The Irish will cap the event with a contest against Maryland (3-6) Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
IRISH SLAP HITS
– Notre Dame earned its first tournament sweep of 2013 with a 4-0 showing last weekend at the East Carolina Pirate Invitational. The Irish defeated host East Carolina 9-1 in five innings and 6-0, Liberty 10-2 in five innings and Fairfield 5-4.
– The Notre Dame offense enjoyed its most dominant outing of the young season, outscoring tournament opposition by a cumulative 30-7 run margin. The Irish also finished the Pirate Invitational with the edge in team batting average (.394-.236), hits (41-21), extra base hits (19-4), RBI (29-7), total bases (76-29), on-base percentage (.467-.289) and stolen bases (8-4) in the event’s four games.
– Emilee Koerner enjoyed one of the most productive weekends in the country in the batters box, hitting at a .786 (11-for-14) clip with five extra base knocks, nine RBI, a stolen base and six runs scored at the Pirate Invitational. The Notre Dame sophomore, who is hitting .567 in her last two tournaments (17-for-30), was named BIG EAST Player of the Week and was recognized by the NFCA as a top weekly performer.
– After having hit no home runs in her first 82 career at-bats, Laura Winter launched three big flies in two games at the Pirate Invitational, including a walk-off solo shot Sunday against Fairfield. Winter’s game-winning blast was the first Notre Dame walk-off home run since Amy Buntin connected on a three-run seventh inning homer against Western Michigan March 27 of last year.
– In her three starts at the Pirate Invitational, left fielder Lauren Stuhr chipped in a .667 batting average (4-for-6) with a double, two RBI and two runs scored. In fact, after drawing a walk and being hit by two pitches, Stuhr finished with the highest on-base percentage (.778) on the team during the weekend.
– The Notre Dame pitching staff made the most of the offensive surge at the Pirate Invitational, yielding a meager 1.75 combined ERA against East Carolina, Liberty and Fairfield. The Irish trio of Laura Winter, Brittany O’Donnell and Allie Rhodes struck out 28 batters in 24 full innings.
Rounding The Koerner
After batting .320 (48-for-150) during her freshman season, Notre Dame outfielder Emilee Koerner is on pace to shatter all offensive marks she set during her inaugural campaign as a member of the Irish.
Through 13 games in 2013, Koerner has posted a sizzling .523 average (23-for-44) with five doubles, one triple, two home runs, 12 RBI and 12 runs scored. The triple and home run numbers are tied with her totals from last season, which were accrued over 54 games played (53 starts).
Koerner was named BIG EAST Player of the Week after batting at a .786 clip (11-for-14) during Notre Dame’s four-game sweep of the field at the East Carolina Pirate Invitational last weekend.
Fast Starts Lead To Wins
The Irish are outscoring opponents a cumulative 32-14 during the first three innings this season. That mark includes a one-sided 16-0 edge in the opening inning of the team’s first 13 games.
Notre Dame is a perfect 6-0 when leading after four innings, and is 4-0 when scoring between six and nine runs.
Some 31 scheduled games will have passed before Notre Dame hosts its first home contest of the season at Melissa Cook Stadium March 28 against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
While the early season tournament circuit is abundant with neutral site games, it is tournament hosts that the Irish have enjoyed success against thus far.
Notre Dame is 3-1 in “true” road games to open the season, downing Charlotte and East Carolina twice. San Diego State is the only tournament host to defeat the Irish thus far in 2013.
Nine Is The Magic Number
It is a fairly simple view of how the game of softball is played, but a strong offense often leads to more victories. Notre Dame has put that theory on full display during its first 13 games.
The Irish are 6-1 when recording nine or more hits this season, with the only loss coming in extra innings to Wisconsin Feb. 10 (11 hits). Notre Dame has converted the production at the plate into tallies on the scoreboard, scoring six or more runs in five of those contests.
Production Starts At The Top
The top three hitters in the Irish lineup, statistically, have been the catalysts for the Notre Dame offense through the first 13 games this season. The one through three hole is the only set in the lineup where each slot has at least a .275 batting average.
Leadoff hitters are batting .277, and have scored 10 runs, second-most on the team. No. 1 hitters, which have included Emilee Koerner, Jenna Simon and Kelsey Thornton, are a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts.
The number two spot has accounted for a combined .378 batting average, 17 hits (second on the Irish) and a team-high nine stolen bases, eight of which belong to Thornton.
The most impressive numbers have come from the `power’ spot in the lineup, the number three slot. Three hitters are batting .488 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs, 12 RBI and 12 runs scored.
Most of the production at the three hole has come from Koerner, who is an impressive 18-for-31 (.581) with two homers, 11 RBI, a .576 on-base percentage and a .968 slugging percentage in only nine games.
The cleanup spot, fourth in the lineup, holds the team lead in home runs (4), after Laura Winter hit three last weekend at the Pirate Invitational.