Irish put win streak on line against rival DePaul
Benjamin Padanilam | Tuesday, April 21, 2015
No. 25 Notre Dame will put its 23-game win streak on the line in Tuesday’s matchup with DePaul at Melissa Cook Stadium.
This past weekend, the Irish (37-11, 16-5 ACC) swept conference opponent Syracuse in a three-game home series. Today, they look to continue their winning ways as they host the Blue Demons (17-21, 8-3 Big East) in a nonconference, rivalry matchup.
“They are a huge rival for us,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They’ve always been a rival for us. They used to be an in-conference rival, but now they are an out-of-conference rival.”
The Blue Demons have shown an ability to put runs on the board this year, averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting at a .288 clip. They also have power in their lineup, as they have hit 49 home runs this season. They are led offensively by senior pitcher/first baseman Mary Connolly, who has a .376 batting average and paces the team with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. Sophomore first baseman Nicole Pihl is second on the team with 10 homers and 30 RBIs, while junior second baseman/third baseman Morgan Maize hits at a .365 clip with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.
On the mound, however, the DePaul staff has struggled. It has a combined ERA of 5.32, with opponents hitting .315 against the Blue Devils. Connolly has been the go-to pitcher for DePaul this year, logging more innings (125 and 1/3) than the rest of the staff en route to a 4.97 ERA and an 11-12 record.
From both the plate and the mound, Gumpf said her team will be aggressive against the Blue Demons.
“We are 100 percent attacking them,” Gumpf said. “We’re going to go at them hard.”
The Irish should have the weapons to do so. Opponents are hitting just .223 against Irish pitchers this year and the staff holds an ERA of 2.55. Sophomore Rachel Nasland and junior Allie Rhodes lead the staff this year; Nasland carries a 16-6 record with team-bests in ERA (2.37), strikeouts (157) and shutouts (five), while Rhodes has a better win percentage, as she holds a record of 16-4 to accompany her 2.62 ERA.
Sophomore left fielder Karley Wester, who holds a team-high .434 batting average and has swiped 24 bases, is among Notre Dame’s leaders at the plate. Senior third baseman Katey Haus leads the team with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs, while senior center fielder Emilee Koerner is right behind her with nine homers and 41 RBIs.
In addition to being a rivalry game, Tuesday’s matchup also represents the start of the last week of regular season play for the Irish. As the ACC and NCAA championships near, Gumpf said she is pleased with where her team stands as they continue to progress towards the postseason.
“The one thing I can say about us is that we’ve been consistent,” Gumpf said. “Sometimes we’ve struggled and haven’t played our best softball, but we’ve found ways to get things done. When you’re able to do that, and you find some consistency in your games, you bring a lot of confidence into them, and that helps you to win.”
The first pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.