Jan. 31, 2017
by Tony Jones
NFCA PRESEASON TOP 25 | USA SOFTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25 | 2017 ND SCHEDULE
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The official start of the 2017 University of Notre Dame softball season is a mere 10 days away, when the Irish open play at the Beach Kickoff Tournament in Long Beach, California, on Feb. 10.
From the returning roster, to program newcomers, to the preseason outlook, here are five things you need to know about Notre Dame softball in 2017.
2017 Notre Dame Personnel
Notre Dame returns 13 Monogram winners from 2016, with returning players accounting for 421 hits, 248 RBI, 91 stolen bases and 296 runs scored last season. Irish pitchers back in the fold bring 24 wins and 179 strikeouts, along with a .251 batting average against, to the circle from 2016.
Six of the seven Notre Dame players that claimed 2016 NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region honors will suit up for the Irish this season, including first teamers Caitlyn Brooks, Melissa Rochford, Ali Wester and Karley Wester. Morgan Reed earned an all-region second team nod, and Bailey Bigler represented the Irish on the NFCA Mid-Atlantic third team during her sophomore season in 2016.
PITCHERS (4): #6 Rachel Nasland (Senior; San Diego, California), #16 Caitlyn Brooks (Sophomore; Burbank, California), #22 Sara White (Junior; San Diego, California), #29 Katie Beriont (Junior; Colts Neck, New Jersey)
CATCHERS (2): #1 Maddie McCracken (Sophomore; Olathe, Kansas), #7 Madison Heide (Freshman; Belton, Missouri)
INFIELDERS (8): #8 Ellie Richards (Freshman; Pendleton, Oregon), #9 Chelsea Purcell (Freshman; La Habra, California), #13 Dana Bouquet (Senior; Santa Maria, California), #15 Kimmy Sullivan (Senior; Greenwood, Indiana), #20 Morgan Reed (Junior; Maylene, Alabama), #27 Katie Marino (Freshman; Warren, New Jersey), #28 MK Bonamy (Sophomore; Hoover, Alabama), #55 Melissa Rochford (Sophomore; Irvine, California)
OUTFIELDERS (4): #18 Bailey Bigler (Junior; Newtown, Pennsylvania), #21 Karley Wester (Senior; Huntington Beach, California), #37 Ali Wester (Sophomore; Huntington Beach, California), #44 Alexis Bazos (Freshman; Pound Ridge, New York)
Meet The Notre Dame Freshmen
Notre Dame welcomes five freshmen to the program for the 2017 season, with Alexis Bazos, Madison Heide, Katie Marino, Chelsea Purcell and Ellie Richards entering their debut seasons with the Irish.
Bazos was an all-state third team selection as a senior at Fox Lane High School, batting .508 with five home runs, 12 stolen bases and 32 runs. She claimed all-league recognition four times during her high school career at Fox Lane, including becoming the first eighth-grader in school history to be named all-league after batting .521 in her first varsity season.
Heide was an all-district first team choice during her senior season at Notre Dame de Sion School, logging a .406 average with five home runs and 18 RBI as a senior captain. Heide was chosen to the all-district first team in all four of her high school campaigns, including the final three seasons as a catcher.
Marino was named to the all-state first as a senior at The Pingry School after batting .373 with seven home runs, 17 RBI, 13 steals and 29 runs scored as a team captain. Marino added a 13-6 record and a 1.26 ERA as a pitcher, striking out 228 batters in only 122.1 innings pitched. Marino finished her high school career with a .534 batting average, 61 extra-base hits and 136 runs scored.
Purcell batted .410 with 10 doubles, four home runs, 17 RBI and 23 runs as a senior at Sonora High School. Purcell was a multi-time all-league selection at Sonora, and was selected as the team’s MVP after batting .462 during her junior season.
Richards was an all-state first team player during her senior season at Pendleton High School, batting at a .517 clip with 10 doubles, 30 RBI and 31 runs scored. Richards also earned all-state recognition as a freshman and junior, and was on the roster for Pendleton’s state championship victory as a sophomore despite being injured.
2017 Preseason Notre Dame Rankings
After spending over 120 days in major top 25 polls during the 2016 season, many organizations across the country have Notre Dame nationally-ranked to open the 2017 season.
The Irish were ranked 22nd in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 polls, the two most recognizable softball polls in the nation. Notre Dame was also ranked 18th by FloSoftball, 19th by College Sports Madness and 21st by D1SoftballNews.com in other notable preseason polls.
2017 Notre Dame Schedule
Over the course of the 2017 regular season schedule, Notre Dame will face 15 teams that reached NCAA Regionals last season. Five of the eight 2016 Women’s College World Series qualifiers, including defending NCAA champion Oklahoma, appear on the Irish opponents list during the upcoming campaign.
Notre Dame has fared well against foes ranked among the national top 25 since 2013, winning 17 games against ranked opponents during that span. The Irish have added eight wins against the national top 10 alone since 2013, the second-most top 10 victories for the Irish ever in a four-year span (nine, 1999-2002). Notre Dame is set to collide with seven foes in 2017 that are ranked among the top 20 teams nationally in the primary preseason polls.
Highlights of the upcoming Notre Dame home schedule include ACC series with Virginia Tech (March 24-26), North Carolina (April 7-9), Arkansas (April 29-30) and Boston College (May 5-7).
Where To Watch Notre Dame In 2017
Access to Notre Dame games will be easier than ever in 2017, with over 30 games set to be available via over the air television and web streaming platforms.
All five Irish games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic will be streamed through a paid service by FloSoftball, the only announced Notre Dame broadcasts not directly affiliated with either ACC Network Extra or the ESPN family of networks.
A total of 29 Notre Dame games will be available via ACC Network Extra, a new streaming initiative from the ACC that is powered through ESPN3. Included in this package are all 22 Irish home games at Melissa Cook Stadium, including nonconference matchups.
The final two games of Notre Dame’s ACC series at Louisville (April 2-3) will be televised live on ESPNU, with the series finale part of ACC Monday coverage.
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.