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ND Softball

Irish look to stretch streak, strikeout cancer

| Friday, April 17, 2015

No. 25 Notre Dame welcomes Syracuse this weekend for a three-game series at Melissa Cook Stadium during the team’s fifth annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend.

Earlier this week, the Irish (34-11, 13-5 ACC) defeated Bowling Green on Tuesday, 8-2, and then fought for a 3-2, walk-off win over Northwestern on Wednesday to push their win streak to 20 games. This weekend, they welcome the Orange (17-22, 1-10 ACC) for their penultimate three-game conference series of the season.

Despite their poor record in the ACC, the Orange pose a challenge to the Irish in two big ways this weekend, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said.

Irish sophomore right-hander Rachel Nasland delivers a pitch during Notre Dame's 6-1 victory over Georgia Tech on March 21 at Melissa Cook Stadium. Nasland threw a complete game to earn the victory.Chris Collins | The Observer
Irish sophomore right-hander Rachel Nasland delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 6-1 victory over Georgia Tech on March 21 at Melissa Cook Stadium. Nasland threw a complete game to earn the victory.

“Their record is very deceiving,” Gumpf said. “Syracuse is always a good team, and they have a very good left-handed pitcher who really does a nice job of tricking hitters a little bit. So we have to be prepared for that and make sure we’re hitting hard ground balls.

“They also have a lot power in their lineup. So those are the things that really are their strengths: their power in their lineup and [junior Jocelyn Cater], who’s been a really good pitcher for them. She’s kept them in a lot of ball games, and she’s really their person to win them ball games.”

Cater has been the go-to pitcher for the Orange, throwing 156 innings this season, 102 innings more than any other individual on the Orange staff and 59 more innings than the combined total of the rest of their staff. Coming into this weekend’s series, she is 12-14 with a 3.41 ERA. She’s managed to befuddle opposing hitters throughout the year to keep the Orange in games, compiling 199 strikeouts and holding opposing hitters to a .248 average.

However, Notre Dame’s lineup has been just as effective this season, especially during its 20-game winning streak. As a team, the Irish are hitting .334 with 42 home runs this season.

They’ve also been able to create runs on the base paths, having stolen 67 bases on 75 attempts. As a result, the Irish are scoring 6.4 runs per game this season, an output increasing to 8.2 runs per game during their winning streak.

In order to come away with three more victories this weekend, Gumpf said her team needs to remain focused and execute in all aspects.

“We have to keep this game really simple and really make sure we’re doing the little things really well,” Gumpf said. “When we’re playing so many games like we do, we tend to forget about the little things that make us so good. We have to continue to focus on the little things that make us a great team. That’s the main thing we have to do.”

In addition to the three conference games, this weekend will include the team’s fifth annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend. This awareness initiative serves as a fundraiser for South Bend’s Memorial Children’s Hospital and children throughout Indiana who have been diagnosed with cancer. The event started at Notre Dame in 2011 as a way to spread awareness about leukemia, the type of cancer Gumpf’s daughter was diagnosed with in 2010. It has been held annually ever since and is of great personal importance to both Gumpf and the team, Gumpf said.

“This weekend signifies so many things,” Gumpf said. “The important thing is that we’re playing for more than just ourselves this weekend, and to see those kids come on that field and to see what they’re really battling with is a good reminder of how lucky we are. We have our daily battles, but seeing these kids battling for their lives kind of puts things in perspective really quickly. It’s a good reminder that there are a lot more important things than this game sometimes that we forget about, and it’s really important that we give back to those who need it. We come to Notre Dame to do something special, and I think this is one of those things that we can really hang our hats on.”

The Irish will begin the three-game series with Syracuse at Melissa Cook Stadium on Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and will conclude with the third game Sunday at 12 p.m.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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