Feb. 4, 2016
by Tony Jones
To preview the upcoming University of Notre Dame softball season, UND.com will feature the 10 things you need to know in advance of the opening Irish tournament of the spring at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona on Feb. 12. With insight from your favorite Notre Dame players and coaches, The Top 10 will give fans a special look at Irish softball as the team prepares for 2016.
PAST STORIES FROM THE TOP 10
#10 – The Steady Influence Over Irish Softball#9 – Two Captains, Two Thousand Sixteen
#8 – How To Build A Nationally Renowned Offense
#7 – Meet The Freshmen
#6 – Strength In Numbers
#5 – The Cali Squad#4 – A Dynamic Defense#3 – Notre Dame Inside Its Friendly Confines
During the initial examination of the 2016 University of Notre Dame softball schedule last November on UND.com one thing was readily apparent. The Irish, as is the case year-by-year, had another elite opposing slate stacking up for the upcoming season.
Of the 36 different teams that Notre Dame will face in 2016, 14 were regional qualifiers into last season’s NCAA Championship. Of the 14 NCAA opponents, four reached the NCAA Super Regionals and one foe, UCLA, earned a berth to the 2015 Women’s College World Series.
The Irish played 20 total games against regional opponents on this season’s schedule during 2015, posting a winning 11-9 (.550) mark in those contests. Highlights of Notre Dame matchups with postseason qualifiers in 2015 included an 8-4 win at UCLA on Feb. 6, a 12-0 no-hit victory at Florida State on March 15, and three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series sweeps of Virginia Tech (March 28-29) and Pittsburgh (April 3-4).
Senior All-American Micaela Arizmendi batted .385 with 12 doubles, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored against 2015 NCAA Regional opponents that are included on the upcoming Notre Dame slate, adding a .600 slugging percentage and .414 on-base percentage. Junior co-captain and 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 “Watch List” candidate Karley Wester chipped in a .377 average, three triples, 12 RBI, seven stolen bases and 19 runs scored in those 20 games.
No. 24/RV Notre Dame will immediately be tested in the opening tournament of 2016 at next weekend’s Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, with four of five foes teams that appeared at NCAA Regionals last season. The Irish tangle with No. RV/23 Utah (ND leads the all-time series 5-0) and No. 18 Kentucky on Feb. 12, and BYU (ND leads the all-time series 2-0) and No. 21/22 California on Feb. 13 in the annual Arizona State home tournament.
The following weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California, Notre Dame meets 2009 NCAA champion No. 20/19 Washington for the first time in four years on Feb. 19 during the opening day of the tournament. A rematch with No. 7 UCLA will follow on Feb. 20, as Notre Dame looks to continue its momentum against the Bruins following the first Irish win in program history against the 12-time national champion.
Notre Dame collides with its seventh 2015 NCAA Regional opponent in its first 12 games with a Feb. 26 showdown against No. 17 Central Florida (all-time series tied at 1-1) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida. In a game that will air live on ESPN3, the Irish look to avenge a 2014 defeat at the hands of the Knights and returning National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) first team All-America pitcher Shelby Turnier.
As the tournament slate draws to a close for Notre Dame during the first week of March at the Florida Gulf Coast Round Robin, the Irish will see a familiar face in Fort Myers, Florida. Notre Dame and Ball State (ND leads the all-time series 10-5) meet on the diamond for the first time outside the state of Indiana on March 6 at the FGCU Softball Complex. Notre Dame eliminated Ball State from the 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional with a 15-4 win in five innings on May 16 of last year, and the tilt at FGCU will mark the first time new Ball State head coach and two-time Notre Dame NFCA All-American Megan Ciolli Bartlett (’05) faces her alma mater at the helm of the Cardinals.
Reigning ACC champion No. 10 Florida State makes its second trip to Melissa Cook Stadium when the Seminoles travel to Notre Dame on April 2-3, with live coverage available on ESPN3. Florida State owns a 7-4 edge in the previous 11 meetings between the teams, but the Irish have knocked off the Seminoles each of the last two seasons when Florida State was ranked in the national top 10 polls.
A longtime conference rival returns to Melissa Cook Stadium for the first time since 2011 the following weekend, as the Irish welcome Pittsburgh in the inaugural ACC series on the Notre Dame campus between the former BIG EAST Conference members on April 9-10 on WatchND. Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Pittsburgh 32-3, including a 31-2 mark in regular season conference games.
Another BIG EAST turned ACC foe, and fellow 2015 NCAA Regional qualifier Virginia Tech awaits Notre Dame on April 16-17, with all three games at Tech Softball Park in Blacksburg, Virginia to be carried on ESPN3. Notre Dame owns a 16-6 series edge against Virginia Tech all-time, including five straight victories over the Hokies.
The Irish then make their return to the ESPN cable networks on April 24 and 25 at North Carolina, with the first and third games of the weekend conference series set to air on ESPNU. The 7 p.m. series finale will be part of the ACC Monday package on ESPNU. Notre Dame leads its all-time series with the Tar Heels 11-3, including wins in nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams since 1999.
For the first time as an ACC member, Louisville returns to Melissa Cook Stadium for a three-game series April 30-May 1 that coincides with the sixth annual Strikeout Cancer weekend for Notre Dame softball. All three games will be available on ESPN3. The Irish and Cardinals are tied at 14 wins apiece in the first 28 games of a series that has spanned three conferences and 14 seasons, with Notre Dame claiming four of the past five meetings.
The final regular season series of 2016 pits Notre Dame against the 14th and final NCAA Championship qualifier from last season, 2015 Harrisonburg (Va.) Regional champion No. 23/25 North Carolina State, on May 7-8 at Melissa Cook Stadium. The May 7 games will be carried on ESPN3, with the series and regular season finale streaming on WatchND. The Irish and NC State split a two-game series in the only prior visit by the Wolfpack to the Notre Dame campus in 2014.
Below is an updated broadcast schedule to help navigate the dates and game times when Notre Dame softball will appear on the ESPN and WatchND platforms during the 2016 season.
NOTRE DAME SOFTBALL ON ESPN NETWORKS/WATCHND IN 2016
Central Florida vs. Notre Dame — Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Bowling Green at Notre Dame — March 17, 5 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Eastern Michigan at Notre Dame — March 22, 5 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Michigan State at Notre Dame — March 23, 5 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
IPFW at Notre Dame — March 30, 5 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Florida State at Notre Dame — April 2, 1 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Florida State at Notre Dame — April 2, 3 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Florida State at Notre Dame — April 3, Noon (ET) on ESPN3
IUPUI at Notre Dame — April 5, 5 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
DePaul at Notre Dame — April 7, 5 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame — April 9, 1 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame — April 9, 3 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame — April 10, Noon (ET) on WatchND
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech — April 16, Noon (ET) on ESPN3
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech — April 16, 2 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech — April 17, 1 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Western Michigan at Notre Dame — April 19, 6 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Valparaiso at Notre Dame — April 20, 6 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Notre Dame at North Carolina — April 24, 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU
Notre Dame at North Carolina — April 25, 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU
Butler at Notre Dame — April 27, 6 p.m. (ET) on WatchND
Louisville at Notre Dame — April 30, 1 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Louisville at Notre Dame — April 30, 3 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
Louisville at Notre Dame — May 1, Noon (ET) on ESPN3
North Carolina State at Notre Dame — May 7, 1 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
North Carolina State at Notre Dame — May 7, 3 p.m. (ET) on ESPN3
North Carolina State at Notre Dame — May 8, Noon (ET) on WatchND
Visit UND.com next Monday (Feb. 8) for the 10th and final installment of the Irish Top 10 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, athletics communications assistant 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 at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.