May 19, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- For the third straight season, the University of Notre Dame softball team remained the toast of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Irish equaled a program record with seven players earning 2016 NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region team accolades, as announced by the NFCA on Thursday.
Junior co-captain, 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 10 Finalist and 2014 NFCA second team All-American Karley Wester (Huntington Beach, California/Edison), senior three-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) first team choice and 2014 NFCA second team All-American Micaela Arizmendi (Huntington Beach, California/Mater Dei), 2016 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year finalist and all-ACC second team selection Ali Wester (Huntington Beach, California/Edison), freshman Caitlyn Brooks (Burbank, California/Burbank) and freshman Melissa Rochford (Irvine, California/Mater Dei), were each named to the NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region first team.
The five first teamers were the most for Notre Dame in a single season, tying the 2009 Irish teams that also had five representatives.
Sophomore all-ACC second team choice Morgan Reed (Maylene, Alabama/Briarwood Christian) was tabbed to the NFCA Mid-Atlantic second team, while sophomore Bailey Bigler (Newtown, Pennsylvania/Council Rock North) rounded out the Notre Dame honorees with her first career all-region honor on the NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region third team.
Since the 1992 season, Notre Dame has earned a total of 95 all-region accolades, with 59 players receiving first team recognition in that span. There have been 21 Irish players tabbed to NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region teams since Notre Dame joined the ACC in 2014, including 14 first team, four second team and three third team choices.
Arizmendi and Karley Wester are the sixth and seventh players in Notre Dame history to earn first team all-region scrolls in three consecutive seasons, along with three-time NFCA All-American Emilee Koerner (2013-15), 2011 All-American Dani Miller (2009-11), two-time All-American Megan Ciolli (2002-05), two-time All-American Katie Marten (1995-97) and two-time All-American Terri Kobata (1993-96).
Karley Wester is the second Notre Dame player in the last four seasons to be a Top 10 Finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, joining Koerner in 2013. Wester, one of five position players included in the 2016 award's final 10 candidates, is the lone representative of the ACC still in the running for national player of the year.
A three-time all-ACC selection (2014-15 first team, 2016 second team), Wester finished conference tournament play as the ACC leader in batting average (.440) and hits (84), adding the second most runs scored (62) and stolen bases (42) among all league players. Wester also ranked in the national top 20 in runs per game (1.19, seventh), stolen bases per game (0.81, ninth) and batting average (23rd) in NCAA Division I softball as of May 15.
Along with her batting average, hits, runs scored and stolen base totals, Wester leads Notre Dame with 28 multiple-hit outings, including eight different three-hit performances and one four-hit game, and has safely reached base in 48 of 52 Irish games thus far this season. A total of 42 of Wester's 84 hits this season have officially been credited as infield singles, to go along with eight doubles, two triples, two home runs and 31 RBI for the Irish leadoff hitter. Wester's 42 stolen bases this season and 94 career steals have both established Notre Dame program records in 2016.
Arizmendi, Notre Dame's first three-time all-ACC first team choice, enters NCAA Regional play with a .331 batting average, 13 doubles, 10 home runs and a team-high 59 RBI in 52 games. Arizmendi has added 10 multi-hit performances and a team-best 19 multi-RBI outings thus far this season, including two four-RBI games. Her doubles and RBI total both rank second among all hitters in the ACC.
Arizmendi will graduate as one of just 11 players in Notre Dame program history to be named an all-conference performer in each of her four seasons, adding her three all-ACC first team citations to an all-BIG EAST third team designation as a freshman in 2013. In 80 career conference games (74 starts), she batted .410 with 29 doubles, 19 home runs, 84 RBI, a .815 slugging percentage, a .466 on-base percentage and 54 runs scored.
Ali Wester claimed all-region honors in her debut season after logging a .420 batting average, 71 hits, 36 RBI, 47 runs scored and 21 stolen bases over her first 52 starts. Wester remains among the NCAA leaders with 21 sacrifice bunts thus far in 2016. The national freshman of the year finalist was equally successful in her first 20 ACC conference games, batting .365 with seven stolen bases and 16 runs scored to claim all-ACC second team honors. Wester's 21 overall multiple-hit games rank second among all Notre Dame hitters, and her eight multi-RBI games are the fourth most by an Irish player this season.
Despite missing 10 games due to injury, Rochford has been an impact performer for Notre Dame as a freshman at third base. Rochford owns the third highest batting average on the Irish roster and in the ACC (.398), ripping nine doubles and four home runs while driving in 40 runs in only 42 games (41 starts). Rochford leads all Notre Dame hitters with a .497 on-base percentage, and has contributed 14 multi-hit efforts and 10 multi-RBI games in 2016. She was recognized as the ACC Player of the Week on March 14 of this season after a strong Spring Break road trip for the Irish that included sweeps at FIU and Virginia.
Brooks has continued to make her mark as a power threat at designated player in the middle of the Notre Dame lineup, batting .345 with a team-high 11 home runs and .662 slugging percentage, 12 doubles and 52 RBI in 50 games played (49 starts). Brooks has registered the second most multi-RBI contests for the Irish this season (16), and has added 12 multi-hit performances. She was tabbed as the final ACC Player of the Week in 2016 on May 9 after batting .667 with five extra-base hits and seven RBI in the season's final conference series against NC State.
A strong second half offensive performance for Reed netted her all-region distinction for the second straight campaign, partnering with her third team all-region scroll from 2015. Reed has reached base safely in 21 of her last 22 starts since April 3, batting .463 with 31 hits, 12 RBI, four stolen bases and 18 runs scored in that span. Reed, the owner of 14 multi-hit and nine multi-RBI games this season, is on pace to set offensive career-highs in batting average (.351), hits (53), home runs (5), RBI (29) and runs scored (36) as a sophomore.
Bigler claimed an all-region nod for the first time after a breakout season in the Notre Dame outfield. Bigler has recorded a .366 batting average with seven doubles, four triples, 24 RBI, five stolen bases and 34 runs scored, all career-highs, in her first 49 games (45 starts). Bigler has 11 multi-hit games and leads all Irish outfielders with four assists in the field this season. She claimed ACC Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career on April 18 after connecting on two game-winning hits in a series sweep at Virginia Tech.
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 at Monroe and with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.