April 28, 2017
by Tony Jones
Notre Dame vs. #24/RV Arkansas
April 29-30, 2017
Melissa Cook Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(28-18 in 2017)
#24/RV Arkansas Razorbacks
(29-18 in 2017)
Notre Dame Weekly Schedule
Saturday, April 29 (Strikeout Cancer Orange Games)
Notre Dame vs. Arkansas - Noon (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Notre Dame vs. Arkansas - 2 p.m. (ET)/ACC Network Extra
Sunday, April 30
Notre Dame vs. Arkansas - Noon (ET)/ACC Network Extra
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Orange is in the air for the University of Notre Dame softball team this weekend. The Irish welcome Arkansas for their annual Strikeout Cancer series this weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Irish Slap Hits
Notre Dame has amassed a 1,174-512-3 (.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 erupted for eight runs over the first three innings, including a pair of three-run home runs, to defeat Northwestern 10-2 in five innings on Tuesday. It was the first Irish win over the Wildcats in six series trips to Drysdale Field in Evanston, Illinois.
A walk-off single by Caitlyn Brooks in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Notre Dame to a 6-5 win over Western Michigan on April 19 at Melissa Cook Stadium. It was at the time the 11th win earned by the Irish in the final inning of a game in 2017, and was the sixth walk-off victory to end a contest.
Arkansas would be the first Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponent to ever face the Irish in the regular season at Melissa Cook Stadium, and just the second SEC foe to travel to Notre Dame for softball. Kentucky took part in the 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Senior outfielder/captain Karley Wester successfully stole her 117th career base in the bottom of the second inning against IUPUI on April 12 to pass baseball great Steve Stanley (1999-2002) as the all-time Notre Dame softball/baseball leader in stolen bases (now at 124). Wester also has the most hits (308) and runs scored (218) in Irish softball history, with all three totals ranking among the top 10 of active players in NCAA Division I softball.
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.
Hot Start Lifts Irish Over Northwestern
Notre Dame slammed on the gas pedal from the outset of Tuesday's nonconference matchup with Northwestern and never let up. The Irish scored eight runs over their first three innings to jump start a 10-2 win in five innings over the Wildcats on a beautiful night at Drysdale Field.
Notre Dame earned its first victory in its sixth trip to Drysdale Field, and just its third run-rule win ever against the Wildcats in 22 meetings (10th overall win). The Irish finished with 10 or more hits in a game for the 17th time this season, scoring 10 or more runs for the fifth different game.
ND Thrives In The Clutch
With an RBI double in the top of the fifth inning that lifted Notre Dame past Northwestern by way of run-rule on Tuesday, the Irish have now won 12 games as a result of their final plate appearance thus far in 2017.
Notre Dame has earned eight victories in the seventh inning or later after entering the frame either trailing or tied, including three bottom of the seventh walk-offs. The Irish have added three run-rule walk-offs in the bottom of fifth innings during home games.
The Irish opened the season with a win thanks to a bottom of the seventh wild pitch to defeat Weber State 2-1 on Feb. 10. Katie Marino struck for Notre Dame on Feb. 25, delivering a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning of a 5-4 win over No. 4 Oklahoma. A fielder's choice and error in the top of the eighth capped the Notre Dame tournament comebacks during a 5-3 win over FIU on March 4.
At the conclusion of a wild three-game conference series at Georgia Tech, Morgan Reed established a Notre Dame single-game record with eight RBI thanks to a grand slam in the top of the eighth in an 8-6 win over the Yellow Jackets on March 12. The opening Irish home game of 2017 against Michigan State (March 22) ended at 11-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to an RBI single from Madison Heide. Notre Dame's homestand featured a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning that secured a 9-1 Irish win in game two against Virginia Tech on March 24.
Melissa Rochford, whose two-run double with two outs in the top of the seventh inning tied the aforementioned FIU contest, struck again in the opening game of a three-game series at Louisville on April 1. Rochford's two-run single with two away in the top of the seventh vaulted Notre Dame to a 5-4 win over the Cardinals. Rochford followed up in the subsequent ACC series against North Carolina on April 8, singling in the bottom of the seventh frame for a 2-1 Notre Dame win.
Kimmy Sullivan continued her hot hitting at Melissa Cook Stadium on April 12, depositing a walk-off, three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning of a 13-4 win over IUPUI. Reed returned with a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning later in the week during game one of a series at NC State on April 14, with the big fly ultimately guiding Notre Dame over the Wolfpack 4-3. Caitlyn Brooks connected on the ultimate game-winning RBI double to score Reed from second in the 10-2 win at Northwestern earlier this week.
Irish Offense In April
Notre Dame's offense has found its stroke during the month of April, batting at a .328 clip during the first 16 games of the month. The Irish have scored 92 runs (5.75 runs per game) in that span, and have chipped in 19 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs. Notre Dame has showcased its speed on the basepaths as well, successfully stealing 24 of 25 attempted stolen bases since April 1.
Ali Wester leads all Notre Dame players with a .453 average in April, adding eight RBI, three stolen bases and 14 runs scored in 16 starts. Caitlyn Brooks has chipped in a .393 clip, five doubles, a team-high 17 RBI, a .589 slugging percentage and a .426 on-base percentage. Morgan Reed has added eight extra-base hits, 16 RBI and a team-high 16 runs for the month.
Power Leads To Wins
Notre Dame has logged a 13-6 record in 2017 in games in which it has hit a home run, including a 7-2 mark when leaving the yard two or more times in a single contest. Of the 30 total Irish home runs this season, the most damage has been done by way of the long ball with runners aboard.
Notre Dame has hit 21 home runs with runners on the bases this season, including one grand slam. The Irish are 12-2 in 2017 games in which hitters have hit at least one two-run home run.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame and Arkansas are tied at 2-2 in the all-time series between the teams, with this weekend being the first time the Irish and Razorbacks would meet on the diamond since 2001. Notre Dame has won 22 games against the current SEC membership in its history, including a 10-7 win over then No. 11 Georgia on Feb. 24 of this year.
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.