March 23, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech
March 24-25, 2017
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(13-13, 1-5 ACC in 2017)
Virginia Tech Hokies
(13-13, 3-6 ACC in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
Friday, March 24
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – 4 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – 6 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Saturday, March 25
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech – 3 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Spring has arrived in South Bend, just in time for the University of Notre Dame softball team’s first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) home series of 2017. The Irish welcome Virginia Tech to Melissa Cook Stadium for a scheduled three-game set. Due to the threat of inclement weather later in the weekend a Friday doubleheader at 4 p.m. (ET) will open play, with game three scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch on Saturday.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame has amassed a 1,159-507-3 (.695) 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 officially opened the 2017 season at Melissa Cook Stadium with an 11-3 win in five innings over Michigan State on March 22. The Irish played their first 25 games of the season at either road or neutral sites, winning three games over the initial RPI top 25 (No. 15 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, No. 17 Georgia on Feb. 24 and No. 23 Michigan on Feb. 18).
– Senior outfielder/captain Karley Wester surpassed three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) for the all-time Notre Dame softball runs record, scoring for the 197th time in her career during the top of the seventh inning against Mercer on March 15. Wester is tied with two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05) for the Notre Dame program hits lead after notching career hit number 284 against Michigan State.
– Freshman catcher Madison Heide enjoyed a productive offensive debut in her first regular season game at Melissa Cook Stadium against Michigan State. Heide crushed a two-run home run and the game-winning RBI single, all in the fifth inning, in her first two career home plate appearances.
– Freshman infielder Katie Marino added a solid home debut of her own against Michigan State, reaching in three of four plate appearances while driving in two runs to spur on the Notre Dame offensive attack. Marino added three stellar defensive plays in the field at second base to rob the Spartans of offensive momentum.
– Four different Notre Dame players, Karley Wester, Caitlyn Brooks, Ali Wester and Melissa Rochford, each scored two runs in the win over Michigan State. The 11 team runs scored by the Irish in the victory established a season high.
– 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.
Irish Storm Out Of The Blocks At Melissa Cook
After 25 games on the road to begin the 2017 season, Notre Dame opened its home account with Wednesday night’s midweek affair against Michigan State at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish faced 17 teams ranked in the top 100 of the initial 2017 RPI rankings during their early season road campaign, including 11 matchups with top 25 foes.
Since the stadium officially opened its doors during the 2008 season, Notre Dame has compiled a 137-24-1 (.849) record in home games following the 11-3 win over Michigan State. The Irish have averaged 15 wins per season at Melissa Cook Stadium during that span, topping out with 20 victories in 2015.
K. Wester Equals The ND All-Time Hits Record
Senior captain Karley Wester enters Friday’s games with Virginia Tech one hit from becoming the all-time Irish softball hit queen, and would supplant a record set by fellow two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (’05, 284) in 2005. Wester is currently tied at the top with Ciolli, and recently passed All-American Stephanie Brown (’07, 277) and Irish softball’s only three-time All-American Emilee Koerner (’15, 274) on her way up the Notre Dame hits chart.
Coming across as the lead run on a four-base error that began with sister Ali at the plate against Mercer on March 15, Wester officially scored for the 197th time at Notre Dame to surpass the career runs record previously held by Koerner. Teammates in 2014 and 2015, the elder Wester and Koerner are more than 30 runs clear of Brown and her third place run total of 166.
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 seven career steals shy of eclipsing Stanley’s Irish benchmark with 110 stolen bases in 125 attempts.
Irish Freshmen Make Their Presence Felt Against Sparty
Madison Heide finished with two hits, including her first career home run, and three RBI during the fifth inning of her home debut against Michigan State. Heide became the first Notre Dame freshman to register a walk-off hit in the home opener of a season in Melissa Cook Stadium history.
The freshman tandem of Heide and Katie Marino combined for a 4-for-5 day at the plate with a double, home run and five RBI as part of their home debut for Notre Dame
Reed Rolls On In Home Opener
Morgan Reed continued her hot offensive play in the middle of the Notre Dame lineup on Tuesday against Michigan State, notching her fourth multi-RBI effort of 2017 with three runs batted in against the Spartans.
Over the last 10 Notre Dame starts, Reed is batting .353 with five extra-base hits, 15 RBI and nine runs scored. Reed leads all Irish players in batting average (.427) and RBI (24) after 26 games in 2017.
The Resurgence Of The ND 1-2 Punch
After a five-game reshuffling of the Notre Dame batting order just prior to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in February, outfielders Karley Wester and Ali Wester returned to the first and second slots in the Irish attack that they held for all 56 games of 2016. The reformation of the Wester tandem has paid dividends for Notre Dame ever since.
In the last 15 games dating back to a showdown with Arizona State on Feb. 24, Karley Wester is batting a team-high .439 with 25 hits, six RBI, a .467 on-base percentage, nine stolen bases and 15 runs scored leading off. Ali Wester has chipped in three RBI, five stolen bases and 15 runs scored in that span in the two-hole, adding 26 putouts and an assist in left field.
Irish Against The ACC
Taking into account all prior games, including those before joining the league, Notre Dame is a combined 162-60 (.730) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame holds a 20-6 (.769) all-time edge in its series against Virginia Tech, outscoring the Hokies by a 121-53 aggregate run count in a series that dates back to 2000.
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.