Mar 5, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
The Notre Dame Softball team competed at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic over the weekend. They won all five of their games in impressive fashion. Their overall record is now 15-3. To say the #21 ranked team in the country is off to a good start would be an understatement.
Friday was my first chance this season to watch the team for myself on ESPN3 as they faced off against Fordham. Although my computer had to buffer a few times throughout the game, it was easy to see this team has a lot of talent.
Even though all 17 student-athletes on the roster are talented, five really caught my eye during Friday’s game. By the numbers, they are also the most talented players on Notre Dame’s roster.
5) Emilee Koerner
1-4; 1 run vs. Fordham: This season so far, Koerner has the third highest batting average on the team (.400). She has started all 18 games of the season and, in those games she has driven in 16 runs, which is the second most on the team.
She has gotten 24 hits with five of them going for home runs. Incredibly, in her 60 at bats she has only struck out four times. Koerner is currently on a five-game hit streak. Aside from her lively bat, she is also a threat in the field.
In the outfield, she has maintained a perfect fielding percentage (1.000) converting all 26 of her chances into outs. Her solid glove coupled with her consistent bat make her one of the best overall players on the Irish squad.
4) Karley Wester
1-2; 2 runs; 2 BB vs. Fordham: Karley Wester is yet another solid overall player for Notre Dame. Hitting .415 in 17 games, Wester has helped the Irish not only get runners on base, but also drive them in as well. She has scored 16 times and hit 13 RBIs. What might be more impressive than her hitting is her speedy baserunning. In 12 attempts, she has stolen nine bases, which is the most on the team.
Her ability to get into scoring position is something that will be needed going into the team’s conference schedule. She is yet another player who has maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage. As another well-rounded player, Wester is a great asset to the lineup.
3) Jenna Simon
2-3; 1 RBI vs. Fordham: Jenna Simon has the hottest bat on the roster right now with the highest batting average on the team (.425). Having such a solid batter hitting ninth in the order is a breath of fresh air for any baseball/softball coach. And when you have Emilee Koerner batting right after her, it does not hurt either. This “one-two punch” Deanna Gumpf has created by placing these two together in the batting order may prove lethal in future games with ACC opponents.
The local talent from Penn High School has also developed herself into an impressive second baseman as well. In the 18 games she has played, she has only committed one error; earning herself a .976 fielding percentage at second. She is another player on the roster who is not afraid to steal bases when she gets on base. Like teammate Wester, she is a speedy runner with seven stolen bases so far this season.
Simon is a player Deanna Gumpf trusts as she is one of only four student-athletes to start in all 18 games of the season thus far.
2) Laura Winter
1-3; 1 BB vs. Fordham: Winter is not only a threat at the plate, but she is also one of the most formidable pitchers in the NCAA right now. This season, she surpassed Brittney Bargar for all-time strikeouts and now is in second place all-time (884). She also tied Bargar’s record for 2nd in wins (92) on Sunday.
These numbers speak for themselves. Other numbers that speak for themselves are her hitting numbers. As a pitcher, she still can hit pretty well. She is currently hitting .275 from the plate with five doubles and seven RBIs. Although she has not hit a home run yet this season, she does have the power to hit the long ball.
Her arm power is what put her on the 2014 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List.
I believe this video best exemplifies her power on the mound (in slow motion).
1) Allie Rhodes
4.0 IP; 2 ER; 3 SO; 2 H vs. Fordham: Rhodes has the best ERA (1.31) among the three pitchers on the roster. She has pitched two complete games in seven games started. In her seven games started, she has pitched 32 innings and struck out 28 batters.
With a 4-1 record, Rhodes has been able to maintain her composure when baserunners are on. That was something I noticed while watching her pitch Friday afternoon. She never lost her cool when runners were in scoring position. Coach Gumpf explained during the game Friday that Rhodes is most effective when she does not think too much about any particular pitch and just goes after the batter. She said, “When she does that, she is really fun to watch.”
Rhodes is certainly fun to watch and it is her ability to get out of trouble while pitching that makes her a reliable arm to have on the pitcher’s mound.
These “Fab Five” will certainly help Deanna Gumpf achieve her goal that she set out before the season began: “To win.” Notre Dame’s next game is scheduled for Saturday as the team has a double-header at Georgia Tech beginning at 1:00PM.
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