March 14, 2014
BLACKSBURG, Va. – The University of Notre Dame softball team closes its 10-day Spring Break excursion with the program’s second Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series against longtime foe Virginia Tech this weekend at the Tech Softball Park. The series is scheduled to begin with a Saturday doubleheader at noon (ET), with the second game to tentatively follow at 2 p.m. Sunday’s rubber match has a noon (ET) expected first pitch.
Coverage for all three games from Tech Softball Park will be available on ESPN3, and can be viewed through the WatchESPN app.
No. 22 Notre Dame (18-5, 2-1 ACC) split a pair of games during a Thursday nonconference doubleheader in Orlando, Fla., defeating FIU 4-3 in 13 innings before succumbing to host UCF 3-0 in the nightcap. The 13-inning thriller against FIU was the longest game, in terms of innings, that the Irish had played in since winning an 8-4 decision in 15 frames over Cleveland State on April 22, 1995.
Virginia Tech (11-11, 2-3 ACC) has narrowed the gap in the all-time series between the squads with three wins in the last four meetings, but the Irish still maintain an 11-4 edge head-to-head with the Hokies. Notre Dame earned a BIG EAST Conference sweep of Virginia Tech during its only previous trip to Blacksburg, taking a pair of games on April 21, 2001.
Fans can follow live stats for this weekend's games via CBS GameTracker by visiting UND.com.
No. 22 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
March 15-16, 2014
Tech Softball Park (1,024)
No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(18-5 in 2014, 2-1 ACC)
Virginia Tech Hokies
(11-11 in 2014, 2-3 ACC; 4-11 all-time against ND)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
No. 22 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech – Saturday, Noon (ET)/ESPN3
No. 22 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech – Saturday, 2 p.m. (ET)/ESPN3
No. 22 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech – Sunday, Noon (ET)/ESPN3
IRISH SLAP HITS
• Notre Dame won its first ever Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series last weekend in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. The Irish shut out the Yellow Jackets 3-0 in game one, and bounced back from a 7-3 loss in the second contest to take the series with a 12-0 win on Sunday.
• The series victory ensured Notre Dame of at least a split in its opening conference series for the 24th time in 26 seasons. The Irish have not lost a league opening series since the 1998 campaign.
• Senior Laura Winter claimed the first Notre Dame ACC Pitcher of the Week citation in program history when the league honors were announced on Monday. Winter was a perfect 2-0 on the weekend at Georgia Tech, scattering five hits over 12 innings with no runs allowed, striking out 19 batters. She added a .571 batting average and three RBI, including her first home run of the season, to help pace the Irish offense.
• Winter became the Notre Dame program leader in career strikeouts in Sunday’s series finale, surpassing two-time All-American Terri Kobata’s (‘96) previous mark of 907 career punch-outs. Winter has struck out 924 batters in 806.2 innings in her Irish career, an average of 8.02 strikeouts per game.
• In game one of a Thursday nonconference doubleheader at UCF, Notre Dame trailed twice in both the bottom of the seventh and bottom of the ninth innings, only to emerge with a 4-3 win in 13 innings over FIU. The 13-inning affair was the longest for an Irish team since an 8-4 win in 15 frames on April 22, 1995.
• Junior catcher Cassidy Whidden led off the bottom of the seventh against FIU with a single, ultimately scoring the tying run with two away on an infield RBI single from freshman Karley Wester. With Notre Dame trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Whidden launched a leadoff solo home run to tie the game at 3-3. She also reached on an error during the winning Irish run sequence in the 13th inning.
• The Irish held position at number 22 in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, and dropped back one slot to 22 in the USA TODAY/NFCA Top 25 poll.
First ACC Challenge Cleared
Notre Dame emerged victorious from its first Atlantic Coast Conference series last weekend, taking two of three games from host Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
The Irish outscored the Yellow Jackets 18-7 during the three-game set, including a 12-0 triumph in Sunday’s series finale. Notre Dame also held the edge in hits (25-16), extra base hits (9-7), total bases (40-28) and slugging percentage (.513-.406).
Reliving ‘The Game’ Against FIU
Cutting a “blink and you missed it” pace late against FIU on Thursday at the UCF Softball Complex in Orlando, Fla., Notre Dame erased a pair of one-run deficits in an improbable 4-3 win in 13 innings.
A sharp single into left field off the bat of junior Cassidy Whidden got the seventh inning going, and a sacrifice bunt by senior Chloe Saganowich moved the runner into scoring position. FIU chose to intentionally walk junior All-American Emilee Koerner to set up the force on the infield. A flare to the left side by freshman Karley Wester barely escaped the reach of converging Panther defenders, allowing Whidden to score and tie the game at 2-2.
After FIU went up 3-2 in the top half of the frame, Whidden would not allow Notre Dame to go quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning, crushing a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to lead off the Irish half, stunning FIU and tying the game at 3-3.
Notre Dame put the game away for good in the bottom of the 13th inning, which began with sophomore Micaela Arizmendi being hit by a pitch. Pinch runner Monica Torres advanced to second base on a sacrifice slap hit from sophomore Megan Sorlie. A fielding error by FIU shortstop Krystal Garcia on a sharply hit ball by Whidden left both Irish runners safe to bring Saganowich to the plate. The Notre Dame captain came through on a 0-1 pitch from Graves, stinging an RBI double off the wall to score Torres and complete the Irish comeback.
Winter Goes All 13 Rounds To Win
Senior Laura Winter went the distance for Notre Dame during Thursday’s comeback win over FIU. Winter finished all 13 innings in the circle, allowing no earned runs during the start, while tying a career-high with 15 strikeouts.
Winter threw a total of 159 pitches during the outing, including a remarkable 139 for strikes, during the complete game performance. The Irish ace also tossed four straight shutout frames in extra innings to close out her 12th win of the season.
Still Setting The ACC Hitting Pace
Prior to the midweek schedule getting underway on Monday, Notre Dame entered the week as the leading team in both batting average (.339) and hits (191) in the ACC. The Irish, averaging 9.10 hits per contest through 21 games, remained on pace to surpass the 2010 Notre Dame team that posted a clip of 8.64 base knocks per start.
Along with the top spots in average, hits, doubles (46), sacrifice hits (22) and sacrifice flies (9), Notre Dame opened the week ranked second among conference teams in RBI (114), triples (4) and total bases (281).
All She Wrote After The 4th
Reaching the halfway mark with a lead has meant an automatic Notre Dame win through 23 games this season. The Irish are a perfect 13-0 when leading after the fourth inning in their 18 team wins.
Notre Dame has posted identical 11-0 marks when holding the lead after both the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
New ND Career Strikeout Leader
Senior pitcher Laura Winter moved within three wins of setting the Notre Dame program record following her 94th career victory at Georgia Tech, and she also became the most prolific strikeout pitcher in program history. The San Diego, Calif. native surpassed two-time All-American Terri Kobata (‘96) with her 908th career strikeout in the fourth inning to achieve the milestone.
Winter has registered 924 strikeouts in 806.2 innings pitched in parts of four seasons at Notre Dame, and her 8.02 strikeouts per game clip is the third-best in program history for pitchers who have thrown at least 150 innings. Kobata remains the all-time Notre Dame leader in the metric, after posting a 10.07 strikeouts per game average (907 strikeouts in 630.1 career innings).
Leadoff Hits = More Opportunities
The fastest way to start an offensive rally is to produce at the plate when leading off an inning. Instant offense has been one of the hallmarks of the Notre Dame lineup through the first 23 games of the 2014 season.
The Irish are batting .408 (58-for-142) as a team to begin a frame, with 17 doubles and five home runs to go with an on-base percentage of .447. Seven Notre Dame players that have made at least eight leadoff plate appearances have posted averages of .350 or higher in the top spot of an inning.
Junior All-American Emilee Koerner, who has been the primary Irish leadoff hitter, has logged 15 total hits to begin an inning in 34 at-bats (.441 average), including four doubles, one triple, four home runs and two walks drawn.
Freshman outfielder Karley Wester leads all Irish players with a .625 leadoff batting average (5-for-8).
The Race To Six Runs Equals W’s
Notre Dame is a perfect 11-0 when scoring at least six runs in a game, and has posted a cumulative 89-23 aggregate run count in those contests. The Irish have scored nine or more runs on seven different occasions out of their 18 wins.
Irish In The ACC
Notre Dame officially opened its tenure in the ACC at Georgia Tech after compiling a 297-53 record (.849) in the BIG EAST Conference, winning 13 regular-season and four tournament championship titles in 18 years. The Irish won the most BIG EAST games of any league team during that span.
The 2-1 series win over the Yellow Jackets not only gave Notre Dame its first series victory in the ACC, but it improved the Irish to 107-23 (.823) all-time against the current league membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 11-4 all-time against Virginia Tech, with the Hokies claiming three of the last four contests against the Irish. Notre Dame holds a 58-21 aggregate run edge in the series.
The Irish swept the Hokies (5-0 and 4-0) in their only previous appearance in Blacksburg in 2001.
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant