Notre Dame rides win streak into ACC opener with Georgia Tech
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, March 9, 2017
The Irish are on the upswing heading into spring break, having won six games in a row, including three over the weekend in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic.
The Classic, held in Kissimmee, Florida, marked the end of nonconference play for Notre Dame (10-8), and the Irish will enter ACC competition over the break as they head to Atlanta to face off against Georgia Tech in a three-game series.
Already this season, Notre Dame has played nine games against ranked opponents. The Irish lost to then-No. 8 UCLA at the start of February, but then picked up back-to-back wins against then-No. 4 Oklahoma and then-No. 12 Georgia. Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said that experience against some of the best teams in the country will help her squad as it navigates ACC play.
“I do like playing the competition we’ve been playing,” she said. “I don’t there’s anyone else in the country who played 10 straight ranked opponents. It’s purposeful. Here’s the deal: at the end of the day, that’s who we want to be. I want to play that competition, so it’s normal for us — to get used to it. And we need to learn how to win those games and I think we did a great job learning how to do that.”
While Gumpf said being on the road can be tiring, she also said she likes having a little fun with the team — like when the whole Irish squad went to a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
“We do some of these little extra things, because we’re on the road so much and it gets pretty tiring,” Gumpf said. “It gets kind of exhausting, so we make sure to have some fun with it, too, to realize, ‘Hey, at the end of the day, the game is the game and we’re going to get ready for the game, but when we have some fun times, we’re going to take advantage of it.’”
Notre Dame’s tough early schedule will be a key for the team as it takes on No. 1 Florida State at the end of the break in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles (17-1-1, 3-0 ACC) boast the 10th-best ERA in the nation at 1.18. Senior infielder Alex Powers leads the Seminoles offensively, checking in at 15th in the country in batting average with a .519 average.
While currently the top-ranked team in the country, Florida State won’t be any different than the numerous other games the Irish have played against top competition, Gumpf said.
“Playing that 10-game stretch of really good teams makes Florida State just another game for us,” Gumpf said. “You don’t make them too big, you don’t make them too little. They are who they are. … That’s exactly how we’re going to approach it.”
For the Irish, the offense starts with junior infielder Morgan Reed, who leads the team in batting average at .442, hits — with 23 — and is tied for the team lead in RBIs at 11.
“Morgan came out just hot, and she really hasn’t settled down,” Gumpf said. “She’s just seeing the ball really well. She’s making things happen in crucial situations for us. She’s got a lot of confidence at bat — you can tell.”
On the mound, Notre Dame rolls with the trio of senior Rachel Nasland, junior Katie Beriont and sophomore Caitlyn Brooks. Nasland leads the team with a 2.36 ERA, 50.1 innings pitched and 29 strikeouts.
In between the series against the Yellow Jackets (6-13, 0-3) and the Seminoles, the Irish will play a game each against both Georgia State and Mercer. Gumpf said she likes the pattern of nonconference opponents sandwiched between ACC teams because it resembles the schedule the Irish will see for the rest of the year.
“What I like about those mid-week nonconference games is that this is like the beginning of our new season, which is being home,” Gumpf said. “We have the conference games on the weekends and then the midweeks, we always have one or two games. What it’s doing is setting the stage for the next month and a half, which is perfect.”