Notre Dame softball: Time is now for Miller, Irish
business, Dani Miller is the one who makes sure it happens.
"Dani is the furthest thing from a goofy kid that I know," said Irish
softball coach Deana Gumpf.
It's not a bad thing. It's just a personality that took a while to understand.
"As a coach, I completely understand her," Gumpf said. "Sometimes it
takes a while for her teammates to get it."
Four years ago, when she first stepped on campus from Huntington
Beach, Calif., Miller's goal was to go to medical school. After she
graduates next week with a 3.3 GPA while majoring in pre-med and
anthropology, she will head off to Midwestern University in Glendale,
Ariz., to study a form of Osteopathic medicine that incorporates
But that won't happen until the 36-13 Irish finish their business.
The critical part of Notre Dame's season begins Thursday when the
Irish host the Big East tournament. The No. 2 seed in the tourney
behind Louisville, Notre Dame begins play at 6:30 p.m. against No. 7
Semifinals will be Friday and the championship game will be played
Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Irish need Miller's no-nonsense leadership, as well as her big
bat, in order to be successful. Hitting cleanup and playing first
base, Miller is the heart and soul of the Notre Dame lineup.
Miller has 16 homers and 54 RBIs, while hitting .352 this season. She
is the only Notre Dame player -- ever -- to hit double-digit homers in
four seasons. Her 48 career home runs are two shy of the school record
held by Christine Lux (2007-10).
"I can't think about hitting home runs," Miller said. "When I do, it
doesn't happen. I just focus on hitting line drives up the middle."
"Dani's biggest development through her career hasn't been physical,"
Gumpf said. "She always has seen the ball well and has hit it hard.
The biggest strides that she has made have been with the mental part;
her confidence level.
"I believe Dani is going to hit the ball hard every time she steps to
the plate. The problem was, Dani didn't believe it. She didn't have
confidence in herself. It took so long for that to develop. She's very
hard on herself."
Growing up, Miller always had her twin Rachel to help with the
"In high school, we hit 3-4 in the lineup," Miller said of her sister.
"She was the catcher and I was the shortstop. We got a lot of
pick-offs (at second base). We didn't have to talk. I knew when she
was going to throw the ball (to get the baserunner) and she knew I
would be there."
College separated the close sisters. Rachel is playing at University
"Rachel did all the talking, even through the recruiting process,"
Gumpf said. "If I had to email them, I'd email Rachel. When we'd talk,
Dani would sit there, smile and nod her head."
"Rachel would say we were going to the movies, I'd say, 'OK,'" said
Miller. "Without her, I've had to get used to making plans and talking
to people. I'm still not completely comfortable with it."
"Notre Dame was the best thing for Dani," Gumpf said. "She was meant
to be here. The environment here at Notre Dame really allowed her to
flourish. She became her own person here."
Miller and the rest of her teammates will have to be at the top of
their game this weekend. Power in the Big East goes about five deep --
Louisville, Notre Dame, South Florida, DePaul and Syracuse. The
conference may be as strong as it has ever been.
"Pitching," Gumpf said of the reason for Big East improvement.
"Everybody has a tough pitcher. The team that makes the fewest
defensive mistakes is the one that will win."
Time for the Irish to take care of business.
A perfect time for Miller to flourish.
Game 1: 10 a.m.: (No. 4 seed) South Florida vs. (5) DePaul
Game 2: 12:30 p.m.: (1) Louisville vs. (8) Connecticut
Game 3: 4: (3) Syracuse vs. (6) St. John's
Game 4: 6:30: (2) Notre Dame vs. (7) Rutgers
Game 5: 4 p.m.: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 6: 6:30: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
Game 7: 6 p.m.: Championship