July 15, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After an exciting first half of the 2016 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) season, University of Notre Dame softball greats Laura Winter ('14) and Emilee Koerner ('15) and their teams are in prime position in the league standings with one month to go in the regular season.
Winter and the Akron Racers sit in second place in the NPF table at 17-11 (.607), a mere three games behind the USSSA Pride as of July 15. The Racers have ridden a 7-3 stretch in their last 10 games to move into the number two slot in the league standings. Much of the recent hot streak can be attributed to the efforts of Winter finding her trademark dominant form in the pitching circle.
In her last five outings dating back to June 25, Winter is 1-0 with a 1.75 ERA and one save, scattering eight hits in 16 full innings pitched. The 2012 BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year and 2013 BIG EAST Player of the Year walked four while striking out 12 total batters in that span.
Winter claimed her first victory of the 2016 season by throwing five shutout innings against the Chicago Bandits on July 1, surrendering two hits and with four strikeouts in a dynamic relief appearance. The Akron right-hander remained in form a week later in a duel with NCAA and NPF legend Monica Abbott, spinning 4.1 frames of no-hit relief with five strikeouts against the Scrap Yard Dawgs on July 8.
In her 11 total appearances (one start) this season as of July 15, Winter is 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA and one save, striking out 19 batters in 28.1 innings. Winter owns the sixth-best ERA among all pitchers in the NPF, and has only walked nine opposing hitters in that span.
Notre Dame's only three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American, Koerner slightly cooled from her torrid early season pace at the plate for the third place Scrap Yard Dawgs (17-13) as the calendar flipped to July. Still, the Irish legend has remained a steady offensive force and presence in the Scrap Yard Dawgs outfield during her second season in the NPF.
Koerner leads the NPF with 23 walks drawn as of July 15, chipping in the second-most RBI (23), fifth-most home runs (5) and a .421 on-base percentage in 30 starts. The 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year safely reached base in her first 23 games to start the 2016 season, and has officially been on the base paths in 28 of 30 contests overall.
With the same flair that she often displayed in the batter's box at Notre Dame, Koerner has enjoyed the most success against Midwest foe the Chicago Bandits. In eight games against Chicago this season, Koerner is batting .421 (8-for-19) with two doubles, two home runs (including the first Scrap Yard Dawgs homer and grand slam in franchise history), 13 RBI and six runs scored, slugging .842 with a .556 on-base percentage against the Bandits.
In a series finale meeting with Chicago on July 14 at the Ballpark at Rosemont, Koerner ripped a first inning double and subsequently came around to score the opening Scrap Yard Dawgs run. She would add a one-out single in the third inning and a walk in the fifth inning as part of a 2-for-3 evening with a run scored, despite twice being stranded at third base.
The Racers and Scrap Yard Dawgs have collided four times on the diamond thus far in the 2016 NPF regular season, with the teams splitting a home-and-home series July 4-9. Koerner faced Winter twice during those matchups, and Winter got the better of the meetings by forcing a groundout to first base (July 8) and a fly out to left field (July 9).
The teams are scheduled to face off six more times during the regular season, with three-game sets in Akron (July 18-20) and at the Scrap Yard Sports Complex (August 4-6) in Conroe, Texas.
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.