Notre Dame softball headed to Lexington for NCAA Tournament

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

The Notre Dame softball team has secured a selection to the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd straight season.

The Irish will open the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Regional, and will join No. 14 overall Kentucky, Miami (OH) and Northwestern from May 21-23 at John Cropp Stadium.

The NCAA Tournament pairings were revealed late Sunday night.

Notre Dame’s first game will be Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET vs. Miami (OH) on ESPN3.

Notre Dame owns 36 all-time wins during the NCAA Championship tournament, and is one of just eight teams nationally to hear its name called for the tournament each season since 1999. Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington were the only other teams a part of this exclusive list entering the 2020-21 season.

The Irish have reached a regional final 10 times under head coach Deanna Gumpf since she assumed the helm of the Notre Dame program in 2002.

This season, the Irish own 11 wins over the RPI Top 75 this season (as of May 9), including victories over Duke, Liberty, Virginia Tech, Villanova and Charlotte. Of those 11 wins, nine of them were on the road, including four in a four-game sweep at Virginia Tech. Notre Dame has played 15 games this season against teams ranked in the Top 25 or receiving votes, all of which have been away or neutral games, and all of those teams are now ranked in the Top 25 as of May 9. The Irish have earned six wins over those opponents.

Notre Dame completed an undefeated home season (15-0) in 2021, the only ACC program to go undefeated at home this season, and one of just three teams in the RPI Top 25 to achieve the feat (joining Oklahoma and Arizona). Notre Dame’s home slate included ACC series sweeps of NC State, Virginia and Boston College.

The Irish entered the ACC tournament with a 14-game winning streak, Notre Dame’s longest win streak since 19 games in 2016, and the 14-game stint included a four-game sweep of then No. 15 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The hosts for the Lexington Regional will include a familiar name to area softball fans.

Kentucky’s roster features freshman shortstop Erin Coffel. The former Bremen High School star has had a record-setting first season in Lexington. Coffel has started all 52 games and is batting .354 with a Kentucky freshman record 16 home runs to go with 53 RBIs.

Coffel, who led Bremen to a state championship as a junior in 2019, was named to the All-SEC second team and also the All-SEC Freshman Team. She is a finalist for the NFCA/Schutt Sports National Freshman of the Year Award.

Kentucky, which is 39-13, will open the NCAA Tournament vs. Northwestern on Friday at Noon ET on ESPN2. The remaining times and TV assignments will be announced at a later time in conjunction with ESPN and the NCAA.

This is Kentucky’s fifth-straight year hosting an NCAA Regional, dating back to 2016. The Wildcats have made the last four NCAA Super Regionals. There was not a tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Southeastern Conference got 12 of its 13 teams into the NCAA Tournament. Eight of the 12 teams are hosting an NCAA Regional, with five of the eight being top-eight seeds and could potentially host Super Regionals.

2021 NCAA Lexington Regional Schedule

At John Cropp Stadium – Lexington, Ky.

Friday, May 21

Noon ET – Kentucky vs. Northwestern (ESPN2)

2:30 p.m. ET – Notre Dame vs. Miami (ESPN3)

Saturday, May 22

Noon ET – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2

2:30pm ET – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2

5pm ET – Loser Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4

Sunday, May 23

Noon ET – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5

2:30pm ET (If Necessary) – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5

Notre Dame players gather at the pitcher’s mound during a softball game against Virginia on April 17 in South Bend.