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ND Softball

Irish put winning streak on the line in Florida

| Thursday, March 3, 2016

No. 21 Notre Dame will return to Florida this weekend to compete in the Four Points by Sheraton Spring Break Classic hosted by Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers.

The Irish (12-3) spent this past weekend in Kissimmee, Florida, playing in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. In five games, the team swept its competition and outscored their opponents, 33-6.

This weekend, the Irish will play four more nonconference games before their regular weekend slate of ACC games gets underway. On Saturday, Notre Dame will face Stony Brook and host Florida Gulf Coast. Then, on Sunday, the team will battle Stony Brook for a second time before finishing their weekend against Ball State.

The Irish will carry their eight-game winning streak into the weekend, which includes wins over No. 13 UCLA and No. 25 UCF. During this streak, the Irish lineup is averaging over seven runs per game, while the pitching staff is holding opponents to less than two runs per game.

Junior outfielder Karley Wester steps into her swing during Notre Dame’s 10-1 win over Syracuse on April 18 at Melissa Cook Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer

Junior outfielder Karley Wester steps into her swing during Notre Dame’s 10-1 win over Syracuse on April 18 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

The offensive success has largely been an all-around, team effort for the Irish this season, as the team has nine players batting over .300 and a team average of .359, which is currently the 16th best mark in the country. Junior outfielder Karley Wester has been particularly effective at the top of the lineup, as she leads the team with 19 runs, 29 hits and a .492 average. The freshmen class has made its impact felt as well, as third baseman Melissa Rochford, outfielder Ali Wester and pitcher Caitlyn Brooks all have averages of .390 or better.

The pitching staff has also begun to find its form on the field during this winning streak. Junior Rachel Nasland leads the rotation with a 1.22 earned-run average, while senior Allie Rhodes has a team-high five wins. Rhodes also sports an ERA of 2.84 and leads the staff with 58 strikeouts in under 50 innings pitched. While no other pitcher has an ERA under three, the rotation has shown improvement in the last eight games. Each pitcher saw her ERA drop last weekend, and sophomore Katie Beriont saw the most improvement after throwing a one-hit shutout against Bryant on Saturday.

Stony Brook (4-6) has struggled offensively this season, with their team average of .220. The Seawolves have been carried by senior catcher Allie Pisciotta, who is the only member on the team batting over .310, and she leads Stony Brook in eight offensive categories. The Seawolves are also led by a senior on the mound, as Jane Sallen has five complete games in six starts and a 3.10 ERA.

Florida Gulf Coast (9-5) carries an eight game winning streak of its own into the weekend, with six of those wins coming over Oakland and Sacred Heart last weekend. Offensively, freshman first baseman Racquel Fournet leads Florida Gulf Coast in seven offensive categories. The strength of the team, however, is its pitching staff. In 14 games this season, the Eagles’ staff holds an ERA of 2.38, which ranks 49th amongst Division 1 teams.

Ball State (8-6) also carries an extended winning streak into play this weekend, having won its last six games. The Cardinals have won primarily behind the strength of their lineup, which features three players hitting at least .400. They also boast power in their lineup, as five hitters have better than a .500 slugging percentage. Their rotation has struggled thus far, however, as their staff ERA is 6.94 and opposing lineups sport a .330 batting average against them.

Notre Dame will first take the field this weekend Saturday at 1:15 p.m. when they battle Stony Brook at FGCU Softball Complex in Fort Myers, Florida.

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