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ND Softball

Irish set to begin season in Arizona

| Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Notre Dame opens the 2016 season this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic Tournament in Tempe, Arizona.

The Irish are set to play two doubleheaders over the weekend. They will open the tournament Friday, first taking on Utah at 2 p.m. and then No. 18 Kentucky at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Irish will face BYU at 1:30 p.m., followed by No. 21 California at 4 p.m. Notre Dame closes out the weekend with a late morning matchup against Georgia State on Sunday.

Notre Dame ranks 24th in the preseason USA Today National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Coaches Poll, released two weeks ago, marking the second straight season it has entered the season within the top 25 teams. Conference foes Florida State and North Carolina State are also ranked alongside the Irish.

Irish junior pitcher Rachel Nasland delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 6-1 win over Georgia Tech on March 21.CHRIS COLLINS | The Observer

Irish junior pitcher Rachel Nasland delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 6-1 win over Georgia Tech on March 21.

Individually, 13 monogram winners from 2015 return for the Irish. These veterans will be joined by freshmen catcher Maddie McCracken, pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, outfielder/infielder Ali Wester and infielder Melissa Rochford. Last season’s squad made the program’s 17th and 20th all-time consecutive appearance in the NCAA championship. The team also broke several single-season program records, with 543 hits, 395 runs and a .419 on-base percentage.

The 2016 squad coming off a 42-15 record last season. The Irish hosted an NCAA regional round at Melissa Cook Stadium as part of the NCAA tournament. After losing their first game of the tournament to Ball State, the Irish rebounded with wins against Northwestern and Ball State before losing to Kentucky on May 17 in an elimination game.

The Irish will spend the first five weeks of the season competing in out-of-conference tournaments in warm-weather states like Arizona, California and Florida. Then the Irish kick off ACC conference play against Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 12, before hosting their first home game March 17 against Bowling Green. Notable matchups include a home series against No. 10 Florida State on April 2-3 and the Sixth Annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend against Louisville on April 30-May 1. Looking ahead to the postseason, the ACC conference tournament will take place at Dail Softball Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina, from May 12-14.

The Irish swing into the spring season at the Kajikawa Classic Tournament in Tempe, Arizona, this weekend. They open Friday with a doubleheader, leading off against Utah at 2 p.m.

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