Jan. 15, 2018
by Tony Jones
Leading up to the start of the 2018 University of Notre Dame softball season, the 30th varsity campaign for the Irish program, UND.com will profile five standout moments from each decade of Notre Dame softball.
5. Notre Dame Leads NCAA in Average, Doubles During 47-Win Season in 2010
It was all about the offense for Notre Dame during the 2010 season, as the Irish staked their claim to being one of the top hitting clubs in Division I softball. Notre Dame’s .343 team batting average over 59 games was not only a program record by some 25 points (.318 in 2001), but it paced all Division I teams. The 2010 Irish also led the NCAA with 103 doubles, while scoring more runs (369) and hitting more home runs (75) than any prior Notre Dame lineup.
Sadie Pitzenberger helped lead one of the nation’s best offenses in 2010
Led by the .397 average and 17 doubles of Sadie Pitzenberger, along with the .392 clip, 17 home runs and 17 doubles of Christine Lux, seven regular Notre Dame players finished 2010 batting .330 or above, with five players closing the year over .370. The offensive onslaught of the Irish guided the team to a 47-12 record, reaching the final day of the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional against Michigan.
It should be noted that the 2010 Irish squad, for all of its offensive exploits, also featured one of the top pitching performances in Notre Dame lore. Jody Valdivia was named the BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year after winning a Notre Dame record 38 games (38-7) with a 1.98 ERA and 274 strikeouts in 264.2 innings.
4. Notre Dame Claims 13th and Final BIG EAST Regular-Season Title in 2013
Capping an 18-year run that saw nearly 300 wins in conference play, six tournament titles and countless all-conference performers, Notre Dame closed its BIG EAST Conference tenure in style on the final day of the 2013 season. Buoyed by an early first-inning RBI single by Laura Winter, and a two-run double in the fifth inning by Cassidy Whidden, the Irish knocked off No. 9 Louisville 3-1 on May 5, 2013 to clinch the top seed in the BIG EAST tournament.
Notre Dame claimed the three-game series over the top-10 ranked Cardinals thanks to a walk-off sacrifice fly in a 5-4 victory during the opening game of a Saturday doubleheader the prior evening. The Irish rode a key Sunday performance from Winter to the BIG EAST regular-season crown in the series and season finale, as the Notre Dame ace allowed one run on six hits while striking out five batters as part of a complete game.
Notre Dame won its 13th and final BIG EAST regular-season championship to close the 2013 season against No. 9 Louisville
Upon debuting in the BIG EAST in 1996, Notre Dame claimed regular-season championships in the conference every year from 1996-2005, and again in 2010, 2011 and 2013. The Irish also won the BIG EAST tournament six times; 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2009.
3. Emilee Koerner (2013) and Karley Wester (2015-16) Finalists for National POTY
As Notre Dame exited the BIG EAST in 2013 and entered the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in time for the 2014 season, a pair of Irish outfielders quickly established themselves on the national scene during their sophomore years. Emilee Koerner and Karley Wester wound up being not only two of the most prolific offensive players in program history, but two of the national standouts across all of college softball.
Koerner exploded with an incredible 2013 sophomore campaign that saw her earn National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-America Second-Team accolades, along with finishing among the 10 finalists for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award that season. Koerner maintained her season batting average above .500 for over a month during the middle of the season, and led all Division I players in average for four straight weeks from March 24 through April 14, ultimately finishing with a .439 clip, 79 hits, 21 doubles, 47 RBI and 51 runs scored.
Emilee Koerner was among the nation’s best hitters and one of 10 finalists for USA National Softball Player of the Year in 2013
Koerner, the only three-time NFCA All-American in Notre Dame history (2013 second team, 2014 and 2015 third team), added the 2015 ACC Player of the Year and three straight all-conference nods to her rÃƒÆ’Â©sumÃƒÆ’Â©. She graduated in 2015 as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in batting average (.404), doubles (79), runs scored (196) and slugging percentage (.694), with her batting average and run totals ultimately surpassed by Wester.
Playing alongside Koerner for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Wester set out to make her own mark on the national stage. A top-three finish in 2014 NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year voting and NFCA All-America Second-Team accolades set Wester on the fast track toward success, and she amplified that over the next two years. As a sophomore in 2015, Wester tied the Notre Dame single-season records for hits (84) and runs scored (65) to finish among the 26 finalists for USA Softball National Player of the Year. A staggering 91 hits, 68 runs and 46 stolen bases as a junior captain in 2016 landed Wester in the final 10 of USA Softball Player of the Year voting, a second nod as an NFCA All-American (third team) and earned the dynamic slap hitter an invitation to Team USA training camp in January of 2017.
Karley Wester rewrote the Notre Dame offensive record book on her way to a pair of finalist nods for USA Softball National Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016
Wester concluded her career as Notre Dame’s all-time leader with 323 hits, the most hits by any ACC player in conference history. She added the top batting average (.418), most runs (227), highest on-base percentage (.471) and the most stolen bases (129) by an Irish softball player, with her stolen base total a Notre Dame record across both softball and baseball.
2. Notre Dame Again Leads NCAA in Average, Doubles in First ACC Season
Notre Dame made a triumphant offensive debut as a member of the ACC in 2014, reaching the summit of the NCAA in both batting average and doubles for the second time in five seasons. The Irish established program records with a .357 average and 107 doubles, adding a single-season high 533 hits in the process.
Micaela Arizmendi enjoyed a breakout sophomore year at the plate for Notre Dame in 2014, earning NFCA All-America Second-Team honors
A total of 11 players batted above .294 for the 2014 edition of the Irish, with six hitters batting above .335 over the course of the season. Karley Wester, who ultimately finished as the ACC Freshman of the Year and a finalist for NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year, batted .455 in one of the best offensive seasons in Notre Dame history on her way to NFCA All-America Second-Team accolades. Emilee Koerner batted .433 with a team record 65 runs, finishing one double from equaling the NCAA Division I single-season best with 28 on the year. Micaela Arizmendi batted .382 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI to round out the Irish All-Americans on the NFCA’s second team.
Notre Dame would eventually break the hits mark just one season later, ripping a total of 543 base hits as a team in 2015. The batting average and doubles marks still stand atop the all-time Irish record book.
1. Notre Dame Hosts First Regional at Melissa Cook Stadium
Following a prolific offensive performance in 2014, expectations were high for Notre Dame entering the 2015 campaign. The goal was to achieve a first for the program since moving into Melissa Cook Stadium in 2008, host an NCAA Regional on home soil. Tasked with one of the toughest schedules in program history in 2015, the Irish did just that.
A boisterous crowd witnessed the first NCAA Regional game in Melissa Cook Stadium history on May 15, 2015
With eight ranked wins on its rÃƒÆ’Â©sumÃƒÆ’Â©, the second-most in a single-season since its debut season in 1989, Notre Dame claimed the 16th national seed in the 2015 NCAA Championship draw. It was just the second time the Irish welcomed the NCAA postseason to the Notre Dame campus, alongside the 2005 NCAA Number 9 Regional that was held at Ivy Field.
A dynamic Saturday performance carried Notre Dame to wins over Northwestern (14-5) and Ball State (15-4) in only 10 innings of play. The Irish ultimately outscored their regional opposition 35-19 that weekend, batting .370 with 13 extra-base hits and 32 RBI over four games. Emilee Koerner closed her Notre Dame career with a .583 batting average, seven RBI and eight runs scored in the 2015 NCAA tournament, while classmate Jenna Simon batted .545 with three stolen bases and five runs scored in her final home showing.
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, men’s soccer and swimming and diving 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.