March 16, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame at #1/2 Florida State
March 17-19, 2017
JoAnne Graf Field
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(12-10, 1-2 ACC in 2017)
#1/2 Florida State Seminoles
(25-1-1, 6-0 ACC in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
Friday, March 17
Notre Dame at No. 1/2 Florida State - 6 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Saturday, March 18
Notre Dame at No. 1/2 Florida State - 1 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Sunday, March 19
Notre Dame at No. 1/2 Florida State - Noon (ET)/ACC Network Extra
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A stretch of seven games in 10 days during the semester break for the University of Notre Dame softball team culminates in a crescendo of an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series. The Irish return to JoAnne Graf Field to square off with No. 1/2 Florida State in a three-game ACC set on March 17-19, with live coverage on ACC Network Extra.
Irish Slap Hits Notre Dame has amassed a 1,158-504-3 (.696) all-time record, 30 combined conference championships (19 regular season, 11 tournament) and 21 NCAA Regional appearances, which has included 18 straight berths into the NCAA Championship tournament.
Following the cancellation of a midweek encounter with Georgia State on Tuesday due to inclement weather, Notre Dame picked up its second straight win with a 7-2 victory at Mercer on Wednesday night in Macon, Georgia.
Senior outfielder/captain Karley Wester surpassed three-time All-American Emilee Koerner ('15) for the all-time Notre Dame softball runs record, scoring for the 197th time in her career during the top of the seventh inning against Mercer. Wester also passed All-American Stephanie Brown ('07) for second place on the Irish career hits list with her 278th base knock at Notre Dame
Junior infielder Morgan Reed batted 3-for-4 for the second straight game on Spring Break, scoring two runs at Mercer. Reed previously smashed two home runs and drove in all eight Notre Dame runs on March 12 at Georgia Tech. Reed's game-winning grand slam in the top of the eighth inning against the Yellow Jackets established an Irish program record eight RBI in a single game.
By scoring three times in four plate appearances at Mercer, sophomore outfielder Ali Wester extended her team lead on the current road trip to nine runs in her last four starts. Wester is batting .400 with a double, RBI and three stolen bases along with her run total during the Notre Dame road swing.
Notre Dame's three wins over national top 15 foes in February were the most by any Irish team in that month in program history. From Feb. 12 at No. 8 UCLA to a Feb. 25 showdown with No. 4/5 Oklahoma, Notre Dame played 10 straight games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the national top 25 polls.
Notre Dame has 20 wins over ranked foes since 2013, including 10 victories over the top 10, following its 5-4 win over No. 4/5 Oklahoma on Feb. 25. Notre Dame earned its fifth win in series history over Oklahoma, including its fourth when the Sooners have been ranked in the national top 10. The win over the national No. 4 team matched the highest ranked win in program history.
Notre Dame will play its first conference series against a current national No. 1 team this weekend when it faces Florida State in an ACC set. The Irish have played the active top-ranked team in the NCAA on six previous occasions, with only two of those contests true road games.
Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 28th straight season with a .500 record or better with a 43-13 final mark to close the 2016 campaign. Notre Dame's three-time national champion women's soccer program has logged 29 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
Midweek Win For Irish In MaconA three-run top of the seventh inning provided the University of Notre Dame softball team with all the cushion it needed in a nonconference game against Mercer on Wednesday night. Three RBI from Melissa Rochford, three runs scored by Ali Wester, and a complete game thrown by Rachel Nasland was the difference in a 7-2 Irish victory on a chilly evening at Sikes Field.
With the win at Mercer, Notre Dame secured its 21st straight midweek victory during the regular season dating back to April of 2014.
K. Wester Takes Over All-Time ND Runs MarkAfter scoring just ahead of sister Ali Wester on a Mercer error during Wednesday night's game, senior captain Karley Wester hurdled the first major career milestone in her 2017 ascent toward Notre Dame softball history.
Coming across as the lead run on a four-base error that began with Ali Wester at the plate, Karley Wester officially scored for the 197th time at Notre Dame to surpass the career runs record previously held by Irish softball's only three-time All-America Emilee Koerner ('15). Teammates in 2014 and 2015, the elder Wester and Koerner are more than 30 runs clear of All-American Stephanie Brown (`07) and her third place run total of 166.
Wester enters this weekend at Florida State a mere seven hits from becoming the all-time Irish softball hit queen, and would supplant a record set by fellow two All-American Megan Ciolli (284) in 2005. Wester currently sits in solo second place on the hits list at 278, and recently passed Brown (277) and Koerner (274) on her way up the Notre Dame hit chart.
Wester, already the Irish softball career steals leader, joined baseball greats Steve Stanley (1999-2002, 116) and Scott Sollmann (1994-96, 101) as the only players to record 100 or more stolen bases wearing a Notre Dame uniform earlier this season.
With a successful swiped bag in the top of the third inning against No. 4/5 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, Wester passed Sollmann for second place on the all-time Notre Dame stolen bases list with her 102nd steal. She sits just eight career steals shy of eclipsing Stanley's Irish benchmark with 109 stolen bases in 123 attempts.
Reed Slugs Her Way Into The Irish Record BookMorgan Reed enjoyed a pair of stellar offensive starts during Notre Dame's opening ACC series weekend at Georgia Tech, including a historic Sunday performance in Atlanta. Reed batted .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs, 10 RBI, a stolen base and five runs scored in the weekend set, walking twice to reach base at a .500 clip. She was also perfect in eight field chances split between shortstop and second base.
Reed saved the best for last on Sunday, tying the game with a two-run home run in the third inning, giving Notre Dame the lead with a two-run single in the fifth inning, and breaking a 4-all tie in the eighth inning with a two-out, game-winning grand slam as part of reaching four times in five plate appearances. Reed's eight RBI in game three established a program record, capping one of the best single-game offensive performances in Notre Dame's 29-year history.
Following a 3-for-4 effort with two runs scored on Wednesday at Mercer, Reed is batting .500 with 10 RBI and seven runs scored in four starts on Spring Break. Reed is Notre Dame's team leader with a .457 average, 32 hits, 21 RBI and a .494 on-base percentage after 22 starts (10 against ranked and RV opponents). She has safely reached base in 20 of 22 Notre Dame games in 2017.
Rochford Returning To FormAfter missing the final 14 games of last season due to injury, Melissa Rochford has begun the road back to the production she generated at the start of her stellar 2016 freshman campaign. Rochford is batting .302 over her first 22 starts of 2017, chipping in 16 RBI and eight runs scored.
During her current 10-game streak of reaching base, Rochford is batting at an even .400 clip with two doubles, a triple, 12 RBI and five runs scored. The Notre Dame third baseman has added six walks and a hit by pitch to log an on-base percentage of .514 in that stretch.
Onward And Upward For ND OffenseFor the second straight weekend, the Notre Dame offense continued its climb from a slow start to the 2017 season with a solid performance at Georgia Tech. The Irish batted .308 as a team against the Yellow Jackets, finishing the weekend with 23 runs on 33 hits, adding 20 team RBI and six stolen bases.
Notre Dame kept the momentum up during its midweek trip to Mercer on Wednesday, scoring seven runs on seven hits to turn aside the host Bears by a 7-2 final. The Irish improved to 10-2 thus far in 2017 when holding an advantage in hits over an opponent, finishing with a 7-3 edge in the hit column against Mercer.
Rachel Rocks ReliefMaking her sixth appearance out of the Notre Dame bullpen in 2017 during the series finale at Georgia Tech, Rachel Nasland continued her steady presence in relief during the Irish victory.
Nasland struck out nine batters in the final five innings on Sunday against the Yellow Jackets, running her season record in relief outings to a perfect 4-0. The senior right-hander has punched out 21 hitters in 19.1 innings of relief this season, limiting the opposition to a .171 batting average against in those outings.
Irish Ready For Test Against #1Over its first 14 contests of 2017, Notre Dame played 10 straight games against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in the national top 25 polls at first pitch. The month of February for Notre Dame, from this aspect, featured a stronger strength of schedule than any team currently ranked in the NFCA top 25 coaches poll.
As of March 1, Notre Dame faced nine top 25 opponents, notching three wins against teams in the top 15 (No. 4 Oklahoma on Feb. 25, No. 11 Georgia on Feb. 24, No. 11 Michigan on Feb. 18). The next closest teams to this mark currently ranked in the top 25, UCLA took on seven top 25 foes in the season's opening month, while Michigan played in five ranked matchups in February.
Irish Against The OppositionFlorida State holds a 5-9 edge in the all-time series against Notre Dame, with a slim 4-3 advantage in regular season meetings since the Irish joined the ACC in 2014. Notre Dame has earned four wins over a top 10 Florida State squad during past series meetings.
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.