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ND Softball

ND hosts Panthers in first home game of season

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

After 26 straight away games, the No. 24 Irish finally get to play on their home turf at Melissa Cook Stadium this weekend when they host Pittsburgh.

Irish junior outfielder Emilee Koerner crosses home plate during an exhibition game against Illinois State on Sept. 15. Kevin Song | The Observer

Irish junior outfielder Emilee Koerner crosses home plate during an exhibition game against Illinois State on Sept. 15.

The Irish (19-7, 3-3 ACC) and the Panthers (8-13, 0-3) will clash in a three-game series Saturday and Sunday. This marks the 31st meeting between these teams, 29 of which Notre Dame has won.

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said that, although she does not consider the matchup with the Panthers a rivalry, competitiveness exists between the Irish and the Panthers.

“They’re a constant conference opponent,” Gumpf said. “We respect them and think they’re a good team.”

The Panthers hope to snap a six-game losing streak that dates back to the beginning of March. The Irish are also looking to recover after dropping two of three against Virginia Tech last weekend.

The Irish will have to face Panthers sophomore infielder Maggie Sevilla. Sevilla leads the team in RBIs and runs scored, with 12 and nine, respectively. Sevilla has three home runs, tied for the team lead with junior outfielder Carly Thea.

Gumpf said that her team will have to watch out for Pittsburgh’s strong hitting.

“They have power hitters and they are scrappy,” Gumpf said. “The top half of their lineup is as good as anybody.”

For the Irish, junior outfielder Emilee Koerner leads the team with six home runs and 26 runs. Sophomore infielder Micaela Arizmendi boasts 22 RBIs to lead the team.

Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 nationally in doubles per game with 2.08, and the Irish have outscored their opponents 143-68 so far this season. Of the 54 total team doubles on the season, Koerner leads the team with 11.

The Irish pitching staff has also spurred the team’s success, with senior Laura Winter pitching the most innings for the Irish. She has a 13-3 record and 1.87 earned run average this season. Sophomore Allie Rhodes and freshman Rachel Nasland have also led the Irish from the circle, with 2.20 and 2.59 ERAs, respectively.

The Irish had their first opportunity to practice outside this week. With temperatures above freezing and the snow shoveled off of the field, the team got to break ground on its home territory before hosting the Panthers.

Gumpf said the first outdoor practice was important for the team’s mentality.

“It was awesome because the sun was shining, the dirt was perfect,” Gumpf said. “It was one of those days that nobody really wanted to get off the field because it was just really nice to be home.”

The Irish hope the weather will hold out for this weekend’s series. They take on the Panthers at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., Saturday and 12 p.m., Sunday at Melissa Cook Stadium.

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About Christina Kochanski

Christina is a member of the University of Notre Dame's Class of 2017. She plans to graduate with a degree in finance. She writes for the Sports section of the Observer and enjoys playing soccer.

Contact Christina