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ND Softball

Notre Dame to face three ranked opponents in California

| Thursday, February 19, 2015

After stumbling to a disappointing finish at the Tiger Invitational last weekend, the No. 23 Irish look to get back on track when they travel to Cathedral City, California, for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, which starts Thursday.

Notre Dame (5-4) will be one of 35 teams competing over the weekend, and three of its five scheduled games are against other ranked teams.

Notre Dame junior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi hits a pitch in a 12-4 win over Boston College on May 3 at Melissa Cook Stadium.David Schmitz | The Observer

Notre Dame junior first baseman Micaela Arizmendi hits a pitch in a 12-4 win over Boston College on May 3 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Last weekend, the Irish finished 1-3, including two narrow 3-2 losses, but sophomore pitcher Rachel Nasland said the team has diagnosed the problem and is ready to move on.

“[Last] weekend did not play out as we had hoped,” Nasland said. “We didn’t come out with the same intensity that we typically do, and I think that is what ultimately hurt us. [However,] this is just the start of the season, and we are still trying to adjust to the rigorous schedule.”

Notre Dame’s opponents in California include No. 10 Tennessee, No. 25 Texas and No. 8 Georgia. This will be the first time the Irish have played the Volunteers since 2005, when Notre Dame won 5-2. Notre Dame last faced the Longhorns in 2007 and the Bulldogs in 2004, when the Irish lost, 7-1, in the sole meeting between the squads.

Against such strong teams, pitching will be key to establishing the Irish on the field, Nasland said.

“Pitchers set the mood for the entire game,” Nasland said. “If, as a pitching staff, we can continue to hold steady on the mound, I think it will mentally allow the hitters to relax at the plate and not press. They can then be confident that we will outscore the opposing team.”

Nasland in particular has been effective recently. In three games at LSU, she recorded a 0.88 ERA in 16 innings, allowing just two earned runs on only seven hits. In addition to starting twice, Nasland came in as a reliever for the Irish and clocked six no-hit innings against Hoftstra on Sunday.

Despite putting in so many innings, Nasland said she was not worried about getting physically overworked.

Irish sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes hurls a pitch in a 12-4 win over Boston College on May 3 at Melissa Cook Stadium.David Schmitz | The Observer

Irish sophomore pitcher Allie Rhodes hurls a pitch in a 12-4 win over Boston College on May 3 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

“Pitching that amount of innings does have an effect on my arm, but adrenaline definitely carries me through the innings,” Nasland said. “I just work hard to recover during the week.”

In order to play with the stout competition they will face in California, the Irish will look for more strong performances on the mound from Nasland and the rest of the pitching rotation, as well as more production at the plate from players such as senior infielder Katey Haus, who leads the team with a .444 batting average and three home runs, and junior infielder Micaela Arizmendi, who boasts a squad-leading eight RBIs. Nasland said the team is confident that it can do so and compete well.

“I think we just need to focus on the fundamentals of the game and play with confidence,” Nasland said. “We have all the building blocks of a great team; we just need to trust that.”

The Irish take the diamond Thursday against Tennessee, with four more games between then and Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Cathedral City.

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