Gumpf prepares for tough schedule, ACC welcome
Katie Heit | Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Despite a new conference and a hefty spring schedule, Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said she is not intimidated by the tests this season will bring.
“Obviously, it’s a great challenge,” Gumpf said. “[The ACC is] a great conference. I love being part of the ACC. We have a lot of common opponents and we have played a lot of these ACC teams preseason every year. We have a very good grasp of who we need to be there.”
Notre Dame has already gained acclaim in the ACC, named third in the conference preseason poll. Junior outfielder Emilee Koerner was also named to the preseason espnW All-America first team. As a sophomore, Koerner batted .439 with a team-high 21 doubles. Her 11 home runs were second on the team behind now-senior pitcher Laura Winter’s 17.
Though the Irish have faced many of their ACC opponents before, Gumpf said this would not keep them from competing at the top of their game.
“There’s not a bad team in the conference,” Gumpf said. “We have to be able to bring our very best games every single weekend. We can’t not show up.”
With 18 games before conference play begins March 8, the Irish see every game leading to that point as a test of their readiness and ability.
Notre Dame has several experienced players leading it as it kicks off its season. Koerner returns with three other junior starters: infielder Katey Haus, infielder Jenna Simon and catcher Cassidy Whidden. Haus was named to the Big East Championship All-Tournament Team the past two seasons, Simon tied for the most triples in the Big East in 2013 with four and Whidden provided clutch moments as the designated hitter last season, batting .415 with two outs.
These juniors make up four of the seven returning starters for the Irish this season and will be counted on to lead their team with their experience.
“I expect those guys to bring game,” Gumpf said. “I expect them not to skip a beat and to be better than before.”
Winter will also return to the mound after finishing with a 1.72 ERA a season ago in 43 appearances.
Throughout the season, Gumpf said she wants the Irish to focus on playing their best every time they hit the field.
“What I want to focus on is the process and making sure that every day we’re out there, we are giving our best efforts,” Gumpf said. “Wins and losses, they take care of themselves and how you play. If we do a great job of worrying about what we’re doing in that moment and that day, I think we’ll be fine.”
The Irish kick off their season this weekend when they compete in the Auburn Plainsman Invitational in Auburn, Ala.
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