Sept. 12, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following a successful first stop at Melissa Cook Stadium earlier this summer, the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) franchise USSSA Pride makes its return to the Midwest in the month of September. The University of Notre Dame softball team is one of the NCAA clubs set to welcome the 2016 Pride Fall Tour through Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, with the Irish and Pride slated for a 7 p.m. (ET) first pitch on Sept. 27 inside Melissa Cook Stadium.
Tickets for the special exhibition game officially go on sale Sept. 13 through the Murnane Family Ticket Office at Notre Dame. Game prices are $10 for a single general admission ticket and $8 per ticket for groups of 20 or more. Visit UND.com/tickets or call (574) 631-7356 for more ticket information.
The USSSA Pride, based out of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, emerged with a 5-2 victory over the Akron Racers in the first NPF game ever held at Melissa Cook Stadium on Aug. 10. The Pride, three-time winner of the NPF Cowles Cup championship (2010, 2013, 2014), reached the 2016 NPF Championship Series after finishing as the top team in the regular season standings with a 37-13 record.
Pride outfielder Kelly Kretschman (Alabama ’01) became the first Triple Crown winner in NPF history in 2016 after leading the league with a .447 batting average, 13 home runs and 45 RBI, capturing NPF Player of the Year recognition. Players joining Kretschman on the 2016 Pride Fall Tour roster include Jordan Taylor (Michigan ’11), GiOnna DiSalvatore (UCLA ’11), Jolene Henderson (California ’13), 2014 Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player Hannah Rogers (Florida ’14), Courtney Ceo (Oregon ’14), NCAA career home run champion Lauren Chamberlain (Oklahoma ’15), Shelby Pendley (Oklahoma ’15) Hallie Wilson (Arizona ’15), 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Sierra Romero (Michigan ’16), Lauren Sweet (Michigan ’16), Kelsey Stewart (Florida ’16) and Kristi Merritt (Florida ’16). Former NPF and University of Texas star Megan Willis and Jenn Gladding will serve at the helm of the 2016 NPF Coaching Staff of the Year for the fall tour, as Pride head coach Lonni Alameda has returned to Florida State to begin the 2016-17 academic year.
The matchup with the Pride is one of seven scheduled Notre Dame fall games at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish open the 2016 fall slate with a doubleheader against UIC on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. A second round robin weekend against Loyola (noon) and NIU (4 p.m.) is set to follow on Oct. 1, with games against Western Michigan (noon) and Illinois State (4 p.m.) closing out the autumn schedule on Oct. 9.
Notre Dame made its 18th consecutive appearance, and earned its 21st overall bid in 28 seasons of varsity competition, in the NCAA Championship in 2016, reaching its 10th ever regional final and finishing the season with a 43-13 record at the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional. The Irish placed third in the ACC regular-season standings with a 13-7 league mark in their third campaign in the conference, ultimately reaching the final game of May's ACC Championship tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, against eventual Women’s College World Series qualifier Florida State.
Notre Dame spent over 120 days ranked in the national top 25 polls during the 2016 season, one of the longest stretches in program history. The Irish also surpassed the 40-win plateau for the 18th time in their history, a watermark attained in 12 of the last 15 seasons since Deanna Gumpf became the program's head coach in 2002.
The 2016 Notre Dame offense established a team record with 346 RBI in 56 games, finishing with a team batting average over .340 for the third straight season and just the fourth time in 28 years. The Irish batted .347 to place fourth in NCAA Division I softball, their third national top six placement in average in as many years.
Karley Wester earned her second career NFCA All-America nod by claiming third team All-America honors following a dynamic junior season that saw the Notre Dame center fielder establish Irish program marks for a single season with 91 hits, 68 runs scored and 46 stolen bases. No other Notre Dame player has ever reached the 90-hit or 40-steals plateau in a given season. A Top 10 Finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, Wester became Notre Dame’s career stolen bases leader (98 in 110 attempts) over her first three seasons, and is the active NCAA Division I leader with 256 hits entering her senior campaign.
Wester headlined seven Notre Dame NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region representatives in 2016, which included fellow first team selections Micaela Arizmendi, Caitlyn Brooks, Melissa Rochford and Ali Wester, second team choice Morgan Reed and third team performer Bailey Bigler. The five Irish first teamers on the NFCA all-region squad equaled a program benchmark for a given season.
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.