Irish prepare for Blue Demons
Christina Kochanski | Friday, April 4, 2014
After playing their first three games at home on the season, No. 23 Notre Dame travels to Chicago on Friday to take on DePaul.The Blue Demons (20-8, 4-0), playing out of the Big East, are a former conference rival for the Irish. Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said that the competitiveness between the two teams still holds even though the Irish have joined the ACC.
“We’ve been region rivals since I’ve been here at Notre Dame,” Gumpf said. “[The Blue Demons] are scrappy, they are tough, and they play with a little bit of an attitude.”
The Irish (22-7, 3-3 ACC) are coming off of an 11-4 victory over Michigan State, the most recent win in a four-game unbeaten streak. DePaul also enters the matchup with momentum. The Blue Demons swept Providence over the weekend, shutting out the Friars by a combined score of 19-0 in the two-game series.
The Irish will have to play their best in every aspect of the game in order to win, Gumpf said.
“We have to pitch well, we have to run bases really well, and we have to play good defense,” Gumpf said. “If we do those things and our hitting continues, we’ll be fine, but DePaul is a really good team.”
Junior outfielder Emilee Koerner leads the Irish in runs and home runs, with 30 and seven, respectively. Sophomore infielder Micaela Arizmendi has earned 26 RBI on the season to lead the Irish in that category.
Koerner, Arizmendi and the rest of the Notre Dame’s offense will face DePaul’s ace, senior pitcher Kirsten Entwistle who boasts a 13-5 record and a 1.99 ERA.
By comparison, senior pitcher Laura Winter leads the Irish from the circle with a 1.98 ERA. Winter recently took over as Notre Dame’s all-time win leader with a victory over Ball State on Tuesday.
Winter faces a tough matchup against the DePaul offense, which is led by junior first baseman Mary Connolly and sophomore infielder Morgan Maize. Connolly leads the Blue Demons in runs, hits, home runs and RBIs, while Maize is second in home runs and RBI. Connolly and Maize were both named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll last week.
The Irish are more than halfway through their regular season, with just 19 more opportunities to add another check to the win column after they play DePaul. After nine games on the road and 17 at neutral sites, the majority of the second-half games will be played at Melissa Cook Stadium, including the Fourth Annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend.
Gumpf said that she feels comfortable with where her team stands at this point in the season.
“I think we’re in a really good place,” Gumpf said. “It’s going to be exciting to play conference games one of these days … and I think we’re ready.”
The Irish played their first conference game on March 8, but conference play begins in earnest April 9, with 10 of the next 11 games coming against ACC foes. For now, they take on the Blue Demons on Friday at 6 p.m. at Cacciatore Stadium in Chicago.