Notre Dame seeks to build on early consistency over Florida trip
Benjamin Padanilam | Thursday, February 25, 2016
For the third straight weekend, No. 23 Notre Dame will be on the road, this time heading to Florida to compete in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic.
After traveling to California and Arizona the last two weekends, the Irish (7-3) will now travel in the other direction when they begin the first of two consecutive weekends in Florida. Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said her team has dealt well with the large amount of traveling it has done.
“There’s lots of pros and cons to travel,” Gumpf said. “It is tiring on the girls, but, conversely, they’ve never had it any other way. This is what we do. They’ve never had a spring without this kind of schedule, and they know how to handle it. I think they do a great job of keeping things in perspective and really focusing on just the process.”
After going 4-1 last weekend, the Irish will play another five games this weekend. On Friday, the Irish will play East Carolina and No. 22 Central Florida. Then, on Saturday, the team will battle North Florida and Bryant before finishing the weekend with a game against Penn State on Sunday.
However, this weekend is less about outcomes and more about developing more consistency for the Irish, Gumpf said.
“This whole weekend is just about keeping our softball super consistent and really focusing on the things we’re doing well and making sure we’re getting better at the areas we need to improve upon,” Gumpf said. “I’m not focusing so much on the outcomes right now. I’m focusing on how we’re playing and really making sure we’re staying in the right direction.”
Particularly, Gumpf said she wants to see improvement from the team’s pitching staff. She said both it and the offense have been impressive thus far, but the staff needs to develop the aggressive approach and consistency that the offense has, she added.
“It starts in the circle,” Gumpf said. “Our pitchers at times have done an amazing job keeping us in all of the ball games. I’m really proud of the fact that they’ve figured things out. I think we can continue to get better in the circle and really attack the hitters all seven innings and [with] all five of our pitchers. I’m looking for really consistent pitching and attacking the zone there.”
To start the season, the Irish offense is batting .347 and averaging more than seven runs per game. The pitching staff, however, does not have the numbers to match, as only junior Rachel Nasland has an earned-run average below 3.80. Despite what the numbers may suggest, Gumpf said she has been happy with the progress the staff has made. In particular, she has been extremely impressed with the performance of senior Allie Rhodes.
“Quite frankly, Allie has been amazing,” Gumpf said. “If you look at her numbers, you don’t see how she has really been our mainstay. Allie’s probably the one that I’m the most proud of, and quite frankly, she’s our go-to [pitcher]. She’s the girl that we’ve been really going to to keep us in ball games.”
In general, Gumpf said she expects the staff to develop the consistency and strength that the offense has shown as the season goes on.
“The more outings they get, the better they get,” Gumpf said. “They just need to keep getting outings, and [it’s] our goal to continue to get them innings. And they need to keep attacking the zone.”
Notre Dame will play its first game of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic against East Carolina on Friday at 1:15 p.m. at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida.