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ND Softball

Pitching keys Notre Dame’s success

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

With a win against Virginia Tech on Sunday, Notre Dame staved off a sweep by the Hokies, breaking a three game losing streak and moving the Irish to a record of 19-7 on the season.

Though it was their offense that led the Irish (19-7, 3-3 ACC) to a 9-5 victory over the Hokies (13-12, 4-4), the staple of their success this season has been their pitching. The trio of senior Laura Winter, sophomore Allie Rhodes and freshman Rachel Nasland have accounted for every Irish victory this season.

Sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes faces down a batter on Oct. 9, 2013. Rhodes is second among Irish pitchers with a 2.20 ERA.Vicky Jacobsen | The Observer

Sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes faces down a batter on Oct. 9, 2013. Rhodes is second among Irish pitchers with a 2.20 ERA.

According to Irish coach Deanna Gumpf, having a loaded starting staff is a blessing, especially for the Irish batters.

“I just think it gives them confidence and consistency,” Gumpf said. “And when we have confidence and consistency, we give our hitters a chance to relax. When hitters can relax, they can be at their very best. Pitching is very important for that.”

The trio has been on a tear both in and out of conference play, combining for 14 complete games, seven shutouts and a combined ERA of 2.06. Nasland has also added two saves, as the team’s only relief pitcher.

What makes the group effective, according to coach Gumpf, is their varying array of styles.

“They’re all different,” Gumpf said. “Laura is great because hitters don’t really know what to expect from her. She’s kind of a shock pitcher. She’ll throw a pitch and they will react like ‘Whoa, what was that?’ She has a shock factor. Allie has a great off-speed, so that they will always have to think when Allie is pitching because she has such a great off-speed. And Rachel is awesome because she can jam up hitters really well. Her strength can jam hitters up, and that is what she does best.”

Though all three have been instrumental to the Irish success this season, the linchpin of the group is Laura Winter. The senior is 13-3 on the season, with an ERA of 1.87, and leads the team in innings pitched (105) and strikeouts (124), while only walking 16 batters this season.

The 2013 Big East Conference Player of the Year, Winter is also the only player in program history to win back-to-back conference Pitcher of the Year awards as well. She earned the award in both 2012 and 2013. Winter is currently tied for the all-time school record for career wins with 96, and earlier this season set the all-time record for career strikeouts. Her strikeout total now stands at 934.

Gumpf said she recognizes just what a privilege it has been to have Winter on the team.

“To coach Laura is rewarding because of the success that she has,” Gumpf said. “She makes me very proud because she always does what you ask her to do. She’s a competitor, and she wants to win for her team. That’s really important because she leaves it out there. It means so much to her to be able to win games for her team.”

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