Junior pitcher Allie Rhodes made a career-high 22 appearances (18 starts) in the circle for Notre Dame in 2014

Rounding The Bases With The Irish (First): Who Will Emerge In The Pitching Circle?

Feb. 1, 2015

Leading up to Notre Dame softball’s 2015 season opening tournament at the So Cal Collegiate Classic, UND.com will examine the top four pressing questions facing the Irish entering the new campaign. With the team’s second official season in the Atlantic Coast Conference on the horizon, here is the latest installment in the official preseason preview series.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A longtime hallmark in the pitching circle for the University of Notre Dame softball team has been continuity and experience, both of which not surprisingly have usually been provided by a strong contingent of senior class leaders. In fact, 2015 will only be the fifth season since 2003 in which the Irish enter a given season without a senior hurler on their roster.

Four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) all-region selection Laura Winter (’14) and 2011 all-BIG EAST Conference second team choice Brittany O’Donnell (’13) have both departed as the two most recent senior class members of the Irish pitching staff. Notre Dame’s four current pitchers, junior Allie Rhodes, sophomore Rachel Nasland and freshmen Katie Beriont and Sara White, open the new campaign with only 156.2 combined innings of collegiate experience, the fewest returning innings for Notre Dame since Deanna Gumpf became head coach of the Irish in 2002.

The element of the unknown, in Gumpf’s mind, is what makes 2015 such an intriguing season for the Notre Dame pitching staff.

“This is a very exciting year because we have the true pitching staff that we have wanted to have, and it’s all falling into place,” Gumpf said. “They are four pitchers who are all different, who all compliment each other and who work well together. I think that this pitching staff will work really well together, and in the long run, whoever is getting the job done consistently will be getting the ball the most.

“I am excited to see how they handle the first part of our year against the strong schedule we have put together,” Gumpf added.

Consider that since 2013, Notre Dame’s innings breakdown by pitchers was far and away paced by Winter (497), followed by Rhodes (109.2), O’Donnell (90.2) and Nasland (47). That has left minimal opportunities, at best, for Irish opponents to pick up a definitive scout on Notre Dame’s returners in the circle, let alone its two freshmen newcomers.

“People can watch all of the video they want on us, but they don’t know who will be throwing against them,” Gumpf said. “I like having that dimension to us. In the past (opponents) have known basically who was going to throw against them, now they don’t. They’re not going to be able to prepare for our pitching the way they have in the past.”

The most experienced member of that rotation is Rhodes, who joined two-time All-American Jennifer Sharron (’01) as just the second left-handed pitcher in Notre Dame history when she debuted as a freshman in 2013. The Kirkland, Washington native posted a 6-5 mark in 22 appearances (18 starts) in 2014, sporting a 3.32 ERA over 82.1 innings pitched. Opposing hitters batted a mere .249 against Rhodes last season, including a meager .175 (17-for-97) with two outs.

“Allie is a competitor,” Gumpf said. “She always wants the ball and she always wants to compete, and that’s something you can’t teach. I love that about her.”

After battling through an injury that limited her during most of the 2014 preseason, Nasland capped her freshman campaign with a 6-1 mark, two saves and a 2.98 ERA. The right-hander from San Diego, California held opposing batters to a .245 average (27-for-110) with runners on base last season, allowing only one earned run over her final 7.2 innings pitched.

“Coming off her injury last year and the way she closed the season, Rachel gained great confidence in shutting down any opponent that she’s up against,” Gumpf said. “Late in the year she continued to get stronger, and she wasn’t even at her best then. She is a better pitcher now, and I think she’s going in with great knowledge of what she can do in the college game.”

Another pitcher beginning her Notre Dame career on the mend is Beriont, who missed her senior softball season due to a knee injury suffered last winter. The Colts Neck, New Jersey native looks to join Rhodes and Sharron as the third southpaw pitcher to ever appear for the Irish during her inaugural collegiate season. A three-year state championship winner at St. John Vianney High School, Beriont posted a 26-2 record, a 0.62 ERA and 229 strikeouts as a junior in 2013, earning first team all-state honors.

“My goal for Katie this year is for her to find out how good she really is,” Gumpf said. “Once she figures out how good she really is, the sky is the limit for her.”

White is yet another option in the Notre Dame pitching ranks, and is expected to also compete for innings in the middle infield for the Irish during her freshman season. A four-year letterwinner at Rancho Bernardo High School, the San Diego, California product was the 2013 and 2014 Palomar League Player of the Year, carding a 1.53 ERA in the circle as a junior before logging a 2.02 ERA and one no-hitter as a senior.

“Sara is such an athlete that she pitches the same way she does everything else, very athletically,” Gumpf said. “She is special because she can change speeds consistently and make the hitters guess, that’s a big strength of hers.”

Visit UND.com on Monday for the second installment of the Rounding the Bases with the Irish series. 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