April 6, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame vs. #RV North Carolina
April 8-9, 2017
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(19-14, 6-6 ACC in 2017)
#RV North Carolina Tar Heels
(30-9, 9-3 ACC in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
Saturday, April 8
Notre Dame vs. #RV North Carolina - 1 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Notre Dame vs. #RV North Carolina - 3 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Sunday, April 9
Notre Dame vs. #RV North Carolina - Noon (ET)/ACC Network Extra
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) softball returns to Melissa Cook Stadium this weekend, as the University of Notre Dame softball team welcomes North Carolina for a key three-game league series. The conference encounter is scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday, with all three games airing on ACC Network Extra.
Irish Slap Hits
Notre Dame has amassed a 1,165-508-3 (.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.
Notre Dame won its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series last weekend at Louisville, claiming 5-4 and 6-4 decisions over the Cardinals at Ulmer Stadium. It marked a series victory for the Irish in their first league return to Louisville since a BIG EAST matchup between the teams in 2010.
Notre Dame closed its opening homestand of the 2017 season a perfect 5-0 at Melissa Cook Stadium with a 1-0 win over Eastern Michigan on March 29, outscoring opponents 36-9 in those games.
The Irish have won their last 24 nonconference midweek games at Melissa Cook Stadium dating back to the 2013 season.
Notre Dame opened ACC play at Melissa Cook Stadium for the 2017 season with a three-game sweep of Virginia Tech on March 24-25. The Irish outscored the Hokies 24-6 during the weekend set, outhitting Virginia Tech 36-16 on their way to posting a .450 team batting average.
In game two against Virginia Tech on March 24, senior outfielder/captain Karley Wester became the all-time Notre Dame softball hits leader by notching her 285th career base hit in the first inning. Wester is the active leader in NCAA DI softball with 293 hits entering this weekend.
Notre Dame and North Carolina have split the last four games between the teams since 2015.
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.
Series Win At UL For The Irish
Making the most of two separate big innings on offense, Notre Dame scored three in the fourth and two in the fifth on April 2 as part of a 6-4 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) decision over Louisville at Ulmer Stadium. The matinee victory clinched the ACC weekend series in favor of the Irish.
The series victory against the Cardinals was the first for the Irish in ACC play after the teams previously split an abbreviated two-game meeting in May of 2016. Both teams faced one another in the BIG EAST Conference from 2006-13.
Reed Rips Through UL Defense
Morgan Reed posted a .455 batting average with a double, RBI and three runs scored to lead the Notre Dame offense last weekend at Louisville. Reed has paced the Irish in batting average (.402) and RBI (29) thus far this season.
Ali Slaps Through The Opposition
Following a .429 batting average during a 3-1 Notre Dame week, Ali Wester remains the Irish team leader with 46 hits this season. The sophomore outfielder has also paced the Irish with 13 multiple-hit games over her 33 starts, with two or more hits in six of her past 10 appearances overall.
Along with her hits tally, Wester leads all Notre Dame players with 27 runs scored. She has also chipped in the team's second-best batting average, a clip of .387, entering this weekend's series against North Carolina.
Rochford Strikes Again In 7th
For the second time this season Melissa Rochford struck with a clutch hit in the seventh inning, powering Notre Dame to victory on April 1 at Louisville.
With two runners on and two outs in the top of the seventh against the Cardinals, Rochford launched a 2-0 pitch into center to clear the bases and lift the Irish to a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish. Rochford previously stung FIU with an RBI double with two away in the top of the seventh on March 4, tying the game at 3-3 in an eventual 5-3 Notre Dame win in eight innings.
Rarity Of A 1-0 Home Win
Notre Dame earned its first 1-0 win over any opponent since blanking Pacific by that score on Feb. 20, 2014 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with its shutout of Eastern Michigan on March 29.
It was just the second 1-0 Notre Dame win ever at Melissa Cook Stadium, and the first since the third game in the history of the facility on April 14, 2008 against Rutgers.
Since the stadium officially opened its doors during the 2008 season, Notre Dame has compiled a 141-24-1 (.852) record in home games following the midweek victory over Eastern Michigan. The Irish have averaged 15 wins per season at Melissa Cook Stadium during that span, topping out with 20 victories in 2015.
Captain KW Approaching Milestones
In the nightcap against Virginia Tech on March 24, senior captain Karley Wester became the all-time Notre Dame softball hits leader by notching her 285th career base hit in the first inning. Wester, the active career hits leader in NCAA Division I softball with 293 entering this weekend's series, surpassed the Notre Dame hits record set by fellow two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (`05, 284) in 2005. Only 10 DI players have crossed the 300-hit plateau dating back to the 2013 season.
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 four career steals shy of eclipsing Stanley's Irish benchmark with 113 stolen bases in 129 attempts.
Irish Offense At Home
Over the first five home games of the 2017 season, Notre Dame remained red hot at the plate inside Melissa Cook Stadium. Irish players batted a combined .413 as a team inside their friendly confines, outscoring opponents 36-9 with 35 RBI during the five-game winning streak against Michigan State (11-3, March 22), Virginia Tech (6-1/9-1, March 24; 9-4, March 25) and Eastern Michigan (1-0 on March 29).
A total of seven of the nine regular Notre Dame starters batted .400 or above during the five-game stretch. Along with 18 walks and being hit by pitch six times, the Irish compiled a .500 on-base percentage over their first five home starts.
Irish Against The ACC
Taking into account all prior games, including those before joining the league, Notre Dame is a combined 167-61 (.732) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame enters this weekend with a 12-5 (.706) all-time series edge over North Carolina, including a slight 4-3 lead in ACC play since the Irish joined the conference in 2014. This weekend's set will be the second time Notre Dame and North Carolina have ever collided at Melissa Cook Stadium, and the first since the teams split an ACC doubleheader on April 26, 2015. The Irish scored 10 runs in the first inning of game two in 2015.
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.