June 23, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the first full month of the 2016 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) season nearly complete, a pair of former University of Notre Dame softball standouts continue to carry the Irish flag as significant contributors to their respective clubs. Three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Emilee Koerner (’15) has emerged as one of the NPF’s top power hitters for the expansion Scrap Yard Dawgs based in Conroe, Texas, while four-time NFCA all-region choice Laura Winter (’14) is part of a talented stable of pitchers with longtime league member the Akron Racers.
After being drafted in the fourth round (17th overall) of the 2015 NPF College Draft and spending that season with the USSSA Pride as a professional rookie, Koerner was one of the first players to officially join the Scrap Yard Dawgs during the league’s expansion draft held in November of last year. The change of scenery immediately benefited the former Notre Dame captain and 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year, as Koerner burst onto the scene with the first home run in Scrap Yard Dawgs history. The two-run shot also scored the franchise’s first runs during its inaugural game on June 2 against the Chicago Bandits in Rosemont, Illinois.
A grand slam during the series finale against the Bandits on June 4 equaled yet another team first for Koerner, along with a career-high four RBI. One of the top five doubles hitters (79 career, tied for third) in NCAA Division I softball history, Koerner’s first pro two-bagger drove in three runs as part of another four RBI performance in a series rematch against Chicago on June 21 in Texas.
Entering play on June 23, Koerner is the NPF leader with 16 RBI and 16 walks over her first 16 starts in the outfield for the Scrap Yard Dawgs (8-8), to go along with a .475 on-base percentage, .524 slugging percentage and seven runs scored. Counting a pair of starts during the USA Softball vs. NPF Exhibition Series on June 16-18 against the United States Women’s National Team, Koerner has reached base safely in all 18 games she has appeared in thus far in 2016.
The Team USA exhibition series saw Koerner remain in peak offensive form, beginning with a solo home run in the first inning to jump start a 9-3 Scrap Yard Dawgs win on June 16 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. A narrow 10-8 Team USA victory the following night saw Koerner still red hot despite the result, logging a 3-for-4 outing with an RBI to finish the series with a .500 batting average against the U.S. National Team.
A second round (seventh overall) pick of the Akron Racers in the 2014 NPF College Draft, Winter battled back from serious shoulder injuries and has returned to the field for her second professional season this summer. After sitting out 2014 while recovering from surgery, the 2012 BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year and 2013 BIG EAST Player of the Year earned her first NPF victory with four shutout innings of relief against the Pennsylvania Rebellion on May 31, 2015.
Winter has seen action in the circle during six of the first 14 games for Akron (9-5) in 2016, posting a 0-1 record and 3.97 ERA with one start. Opposing batters have managed five walks against Winter over 12.1 innings, while the right-hander has added seven strikeouts. In her first appearance of 2016, a relief outing against the Rebellion on May 31 of this year, Winter spun two shutout frames out of the Racers bullpen as part of a 9-3 Akron victory in the regular season opener.
The Notre Dame career leader with 112 wins, 939.2 innings pitched and 1,078 strikeouts, Winter is set to return to Melissa Cook Stadium on Aug. 10 when the USSSA Pride hosts the Akron Racers during the final week of the NPF regular season. The 7 p.m. (ET) game will stream live via NPF TV, with more information to follow regarding tickets and other events as part of the NPF’s first trip to the Notre Dame campus.
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.