Feb. 19, 2014
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
February 20-23, 2014
Big League Dreams Sports Complex
Cathedral City, Calif.
#24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(6-1 in 2014)
(4-6 in 2014; 0-1 all-time against ND)
Cal State Fullerton Titans
(9-3 in 2014; 8-5 all-time against ND)
California Golden Bears
(5-4 in 2014; 4-1 all-time against ND)
#8/6 Oregon Ducks
(9-1 in 2014; 3-2 all-time against ND)
(2-4 in 2014; 3-2 all-time against ND)
UC Davis Aggies
(4-9 in 2014; series tied at 1-1 against ND)
Notre Dame Mary Nutter Classic Tournament Schedule
#24 Notre Dame vs. Pacific (Fenway Field) - Thursday, 10 a.m. (PT)
#24 Notre Dame vs. BYU (Wrigley Field) - Thursday, 12:30 p.m. (PT)
#24 Notre Dame vs. UC Davis (Des Moines Field) - Friday, 12:30 p.m. (PT)
#24 Notre Dame vs. California (Wrigley Field) - Saturday, Noon (PT)
#24 Notre Dame vs. Cal State Fullerton (Des Moines Field) - Saturday, 5 p.m. (PT)
#24 Notre Dame vs. #8/6 Oregon (Fenway Field) - Sunday, 9 a.m. (PT)
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Allie Rhodes is ready to fill big shoes for the Irish
By Sean Tenaglia ('16)
On Feb. 9, Allie Rhodes tossed the 40th no-hitter in Notre Dame softball history. Yet, when asked what she thought about her dominant performance, the sophomore pitcher said she had no idea at the time she was writing her name in the history books.
"As it was playing out, I didn't even know I was throwing a no-hitter," Rhodes said. "I knew I was throwing a decent game, but I was just trying to get better every inning because I didn't see a whole lot of innings last year.
"This year, I'm just trying to take the approach of what can I do to get better each pitch, each inning, and each game. I was trying to just focus on each pitch one by one. At the end of the game, Micaela Arizmendi, my roommate, came up to me and said, `Bones [Allie], you just threw a no-hitter!' So it was a fun experience."
Rhodes has gotten out to a dominant start in her 2014 campaign. In her first three starts, she is 3-0, allowing only three hits, and putting up a near spotless 0.50 ERA. In the no-hitter against Morehead State, Rhodes struck out eight and allowed only one Eagle batter to reach base due to an error. While she may not have recognized it during her outing, Rhodes was able to look back upon and appreciate her performance a few days later.
"It was exactly what I needed," the sophomore pitcher said. "I've been preparing for this season for so long, and it was awesome to prove to myself that hard work can pay off and will hopefully continue to pay off."
The Kirkland, Wash., native's role will definitely be expanded this year, as she joins senior Laura Winter and freshman Rachel Nasland as the workhorses of the Irish starting rotation. During her freshman campaign, Rhodes made 15 appearances, including two starts. She struck out 28 batters and posted a 2.82 ERA in 27.1 innings of work, finishing the year with a 2-0 record. This year, Rhodes will likely see a dramatic increase in her workload, and she believes that working together with her teammates will help ease the transition.
"This year we've talked a lot about working together as a pitching staff," Rhodes said. "Laura, Rachel and me have been trying to work together as more of a dynamic team and group, rather than just battling for the lead role. We are trying to focus on complementing each other in any way we can."
Rhodes, who pitches left-handed, has been particularly dominant against left-handed batters. During her freshman year, she faced 32 left-handed batters and allowed only four hits, equivalent to an extremely low .125 batting average. Rhodes attributes her success against lefties to one of many pitches in her arsenal.
"My changeup is a big factor against all batters, but I also think my curveball is one of my strongest pitches," Rhodes said. "To a lefty, my curveball is going off the plate, so I think that makes it really tough to hit."
Rhodes is also only the second left-handed pitcher in Irish history. The first, Jennifer Sharron, sits among the greats in Notre Dame softball history. The 2001 graduate was a two-time team captain and two-time All-American. Rhodes has mixed feelings about following in the footsteps of her lefty predecessor.
"I don't know, it's awesome," Rhodes said. "It's kind of weird that I'm only the second lefty to ever pitch at Notre Dame, but hopefully I can live up to the high standards she set."
Rhodes discovered her passion for softball almost by accident.
"When I was eight years old, I was walking around a park with my dad and saw some girls playing softball and said, `Dad I want to do that,'" Rhodes said of her first encounter with the sport. "He thought I was crazy.
"I started pitching to him and my mom in my backyard every day for the next two years, just messing around. I practiced every single day. Eventually, my dad decided to get me a pitching coach and get me more involved in the sport once I showed I had a passion for it.
"I'd say I was about eleven years old when I decided my goal was to pitch at a Division I school. It's was my dream for a long time."
As she continued to develop as a pitcher, Rhodes played four seasons at Juanita High School. She was a three-time all-conference selection and capped off an undefeated junior season with a state championship. Rhodes received offers to pitch at several colleges, but was surprised when Notre Dame came calling.
"I was talking to a few schools, and then Notre Dame called me and said they wanted me to come to campus and see the school," Rhodes said. "I thought it was kind of random. I'm from Seattle and I knew Notre Dame was in this area of the country, but I didn't even know it was in Indiana.
"I came and as soon as I saw The Dome I fell in love," she added. "I fell in love with all the people here. The coaches and the players that I met on my visit were a big deciding factor."
Although her statistics may say otherwise, Rhodes felt that the transition from high school softball to Division I was a big challenge.
"It was really tough because I was kind of a big fish in a small pond back home," Rhodes said. "I was pretty good in my area, but then I got here and realized everyone is good. Everyone took their team to states and everyone won big games, and it was a big transition to be pitching against hitters with a lot of experience at the collegiate level."
However, Rhodes has thrived at Notre Dame, both on the field and in the classroom. Some of her favorite moments from her time so far in South Bend involve her academic pursuits.
"I have really enjoyed kind of finding my way in the classroom," the Irish pitcher said. "When I came in, I had no idea what my major would be, so I just went with business. I've really come to love sociology, so I'm now going to double major in management and sociology.
"I keep taking sociology classes, and I just love the environment in the classroom," Rhodes said. "Reading and talking about people is really interesting. Finding my way to the decision to pick up the major was really cool."
As the 2014 season kicks off, the Irish are starting a new chapter in program history. Now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, they will face off against challenging competition, including 2013 ACC champion North Carolina State and 2013 Super Regional qualifier Florida State. Rhodes is confident that the Irish will match up well against their new conference rivals.
"I think this year is really exciting because even right off the bat, we're playing a lot of good, high-caliber teams," Rhodes said. "I think when we play good teams, we step up to the competition. I think we're going to have a great year."
Not one to worry about individual statistics or performance, Rhodes aligns her goals for the season with those of the team.
"I think we have a goal of winning the ACC and going to the (Women's College) World Series," she said. "My personal goal is to do whatever I can to get us there."
Allie Rhodes brings a rare combination of confidence and personality to the game every time she takes the mound. If she continues to perform as well as she has during the first two weeks of the season, the Irish will find themselves in great position this spring.
IRISH SLAP HITS
• Notre Dame pushed its current winning streak to five straight games with a sweep of the competition last weekend at the Jacksonville University Tournament. The Irish defeated host Jacksonville 9-1 in five innings Saturday, and earned 6-3 and 11-4 decisions over #23 Louisville.
• Freshman outfielder Karley Wester made program history Monday, becoming the first Irish softball player to earn an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) award by being named the conference player of the week. Wester is the eighth Notre Dame softball conference player or pitcher of the week recipient in the past two seasons, as the Irish claimed a total of seven major weekly citations from the BIG EAST Conference in 2013.
• Sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes nearly threw her second straight no-hitter in her only start of the weekend against Jacksonville. The Notre Dame southpaw allowed one infield single in five innings, striking out five Dolphin batters to improve to 3-0 on the young season.
• Notre Dame turned up the offensive heat in its three games in the Sunshine State, batting at an impressive .448 clip in three games at the JU Tournament. The Irish outscored their opponents by a cumulative 26-8 margin, and held the edge in hits (39-14), extra base hits (12-5), RBI (25-8), total bases (55-29), stolen bases (7-0), slugging percentage (.632-.357) and on-base percentage (.505-.341).
• Through the first two weekends of the season, Notre Dame ranks in the top five of 11 major offensive categories in the ACC. The Irish lead all conference teams with a .569 slugging percentage, and are second in batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.424), runs (48), doubles (15), and total bases (103).
• Notre Dame returns to Cathedral City for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic for the first time since the 2007 season, when the Irish posted a 2-3 mark in the tournament.
• The Irish are ranked number 24 this week in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA TODAY/NFCA Top 25 polls. Notre Dame returned to the national rankings for the first time since the final weekly polls were released in 2011.
Winning Streak Runs To Five
Notre Dame completed its first tournament sweep this season by taking all three games it played last weekend at the Jacksonville University Tournament. A pair of victories over then #23 Louisville highlighted the effort.
The team's 6-1 start is its best to open a campaign since 2011, when Notre Dame won its first nine contests.
The Irish evened their all-time series record against Louisville at 14-14 with the weekend sweep of the Cardinals. Notre Dame outscored the opposition 26-8 in the three-game tournament, outhitting Louisville and Jacksonville a combined 39-14.
Westy Was The ACC's Best In Week 2
Freshman outfielder Karley Wester made a huge impact in her second career collegiate tournament, earning Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Week honors after batting .556 with a team-high five hits, seven RBI, two stolen bases and three runs, to go along with a.583 on-base percentage.
Through seven games this season, Wester ranks among the top three Notre Dame players in eight major offensive categories, and is tied for the team lead in triples (1), walks (5) and stolen bases (3). Her six runs scored and eight runs batted in are second on the Irish roster behind junior All-American Emilee Koerner.
Bones Flirts With Another No-No
Almost exactly one week after throwing her first career no-hitter, the 40th in program history, sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes nearly spun her second straight no-no last Saturday against Jacksonville.
After hurling 8.2 consecutive innings of no-hit softball, a strange bounce on an infield grounder kicked away from Rhodes in the circle, snapping her nearly 13 inning scoreless streak to open the season. The Irish southpaw finished off the complete game one-hitter by issuing five walks and striking out five Jacksonville batters.
Emi At The Top Of The ACC
Junior All-American outfielder Emilee Koerner enjoyed another stellar weekend at the plate at the JU Tournament, batting .444 with a double, a home run, four RBI and three runs in the three game tournament.
Koerner also drew four walks in the weekend set, including her second intentional free pass of the season, upping her on-base percentage to .615. The Tustin, Calif., native added nine put outs in center field for the Irish, including bringing back what would have been a two-run Louisville home run at the wall in the seventh inning of a 6-3 win on Saturday.
Koerner ranks second in the ACC with four home runs, 11 RBI and a 1.130 slugging percentage, and is third in batting average (.435) through seven games.
Winter Keeps Climbing The Ladder
Senior pitcher Laura Winter has been a virtually unshakeable force at the top of the Notre Dame rotation over the past two years, and the right-handed hurler continues to move further up the ranks of the Irish elite.
Winter, currently riding a three-decision winning streak, is just two wins (86) from tying two-time All-American Jennifer Sharron (`01) for third on the all-time Notre Dame victories list with 88. In fact, Winter is a mere 11 wins from setting a program record, currently held by Heather Booth (`06, 96 wins).
The San Diego, Calif., native moved into third place in career strikeouts (833) during the season opening Auburn Plainsman Invitational, and also currently ranks fifth all-time in complete games (73) and innings pitched (734.1). Winter is also sixth in all-time appearances (132) and starts (108) entering play at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, and is 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in four appearances (three starts) this season.
Captain Chloe Finding Her Way
Senior captain Chloe Saganowich shook off what was a relatively slow opening weekend at the plate during the JU Tournament, batting an even .500 with a team-high five hits and four runs scored against Louisville and Jacksonville.
The Treasure Island, Fla., native added a pair of doubles and one stolen base to her tournament stat line, leading the Irish to a 3-0 event record. Saganowich capped the weekend performance with a 3-for-4 outing, including an RBI double and scoring two runs, during Notre Dame's 11-4 victory over then #23 Louisville last Sunday.
Sorlie Soars To New Heights
Notre Dame's most consistent hitter through the first two tournaments of the season has been sophomore outfielder Megan Sorlie, who has burst onto the scene after showing glimpses during her freshman campaign. In five starts thus far in 2014, Sorlie is the Irish team leader with a .538 batting average and three doubles, chipping in three RBI and three runs scored.
The Wichita, Kan., native, who made only seven starts her entire freshman season, has also made her impact felt in right field. With two runners on in the top of the fourth inning last Saturday against Jacksonville, Sorlie made a running, diving backhanded catch on a hard hit fly ball to steal a hit and prevent a Jacksonville rally.
Irish At Best With Ducks On The Pond
A key to Notre Dame's early acumen at scoring runs, 48 to be exact, through the season's first seven games has been the team's ability to pick up crucial hits with runners in scoring position. Notre Dame is batting a cumulative .398 (37-for-93) in that phase of the game this season, which has helped account for the squad's 45 team RBI.
Goin,' Goin,' Back, Back, To Cali
Nine of the 17 players on this season's Notre Dame roster call the state of California, the host site of this weekend's Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, home. Casey Africano, Micaela Arizmendi, Lauren Stuhr and Karley Wester are all from Huntington Beach; Dana Bouquet resides in Santa Maria; Katey Haus is from Oceanside; Emilee Koerner is from Tustin; and Rachel Nasland and Laura Winter are from San Diego.
A total of 45 Notre Dame players have been recruited from the state of California in program history.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is a combined 12-19 against its opponents this weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Irish enter the tournament 1-0 in their only ever meeting with BYU, 1-4 against California, 5-8 against Cal State Fullerton, 2-3 against Oregon, 2-3 against Pacific and 1-1 against UC Davis. Notre Dame is making its fourth all-time appearance at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.