Junior shortstop Sara Schoonaert and the Irish will play host to six games in four days at Ivy Field this weekend.

Challenging Weekend Lies Ahead For Softball

April 20, 2005

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Notre Dame (30-9) vs. Akron (20-19)
Thursday, April 21, 2005, 3 p.m.

Notre Dame vs. St. John’s
BIG EAST Conference Doubleheader
Friday, April 22, 2005, 4 p.m.

Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall
BIG EAST Conference Doubleheader
Sunday, April 24, 2005, 11 a.m.

Live coverage: Subscribers to the College Sports Pass will have access to live audio play-by-play coverage of all six games this weekend from Ivy Field. In addition, Gametracker will be available for all six games as well.

Key conference weekend also brings six games in three days: The University of Notre Dame softball team (30-9), winners of 25 of its last 27 games, is poised for a big weekend of action at Ivy Field. After finishing a nine-game road trip with an 8-1 record, Notre Dame returns home to the friendly confines of Ivy Field for 12 consecutive home games over the next two weeks – many of which will prove to be key contests as the team begins to put together its postseason resume.

This weekend, the Irish will play host to Akron on Thursday (3 p.m.), St. John’s on Friday (4 p.m.) and Seton Hall on Sunday (11 a.m.) – all in doubleheader action. Notre Dame is 6-0 at Ivy Field so far this season.

Notre Dame quick hits: What you need to know about the Irish for Tuesday’s doubleheader:

• Notre Dame’s recent 20-game win streak matched the 2003 team’s run for the second-best in school history and the team has won 25 of its last 27 games.

• The Irish begin a string of eight games in six days, including key matchups with BIG EAST Conference leader Seton Hall on Sunday and #15 Northwestern on Tuesday, April 26.

• Senior Steffany Stenglein is striking out opponents at a record pace and has posted 15, 14 and 14 strikeouts in her last three complete game victories.

Series history vs. Akron and team analysis: Notre Dame and Akron will be meeting for just the third and fourth time on Thursday – and the first time since the 1990 season (second season of softball at Notre Dame) … the teams split their doubleheader in 1990 … Akron is a member of the MAC and is 20-19 this season and 4-11 in conference play … they are hitting .236 as a team and have compiled a team ERA of 2.13 … Kelly Quigley is the offensive leader for Akron, hitting .322 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI … Sara Zilles is hitting .339 with 19 stolen bases … Tina McCauley anchors the Zips pitching staff, throwing 174.2 innings this season with a 1.60 ERA, 15-12 record and 162 strikeouts.

Series history vs. St. John’s and team analysis: Notre Dame and St. John’s will be meeting for the 19th and 20th time on Friday … the Irish lead the all-time series 18-0 … Notre Dame is 10-0 at Ivy Field vs. St. John’s … the Red Storm are 17-24-1 in 2005 and 4-6 in the BIG EAST, basically in a five-team tie for fourth place in the league standings … SJU is hitting .279 as a team this season with a 2.87 staff ERA … Tami Hill is the hitter to keep an eye on, hitting .383 this season with 11 doubles and 17 RBI … the Red Storm has used four different pitchers in more than 49 innings this season, led by Lisa Geer (2.96 ERA, 4-7, 80 Ks).

Series history vs. Seton Hall and team analysis: Notre Dame and Seton Hall will be meeting for the 28th and 29th time on Sunday with first place in the BIG EAST Conference on the line … the Irish lead the all-time series 22-5, but Seton Hall has won the last four meetings, including two at the 2004 BIG EAST Championship … Seton Hall joins Boston College (`97-’98) as the only BIG EAST team to win four straight games against the Irish since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1996 … Seton Hall is currently in first place in the BIG EAST Conference standings with a 10-2 record … the Pirates are hitting .257 as a team and boast a staff ERA of 1.80 … Notre Dame will need to solve its difficulty hitting Megan Meyer this weekend, as the Pirate staff ace is holding all her opponents down this season with a 0.69 ERA, 17-4 record and 157 strikeouts … she has posted 11 shutouts in her 20 starts … Caitlin White will lead the Pirate offense, hitting .414 with 46 hits and 15 stolen bases … Laura Taylor (27) and Katie Pierce (21) lead the Pirates in RBI … Seton Hall is 0-12 at Ivy Field … Seton Hall will face Pittsburgh on Friday, April 22, before making the trip to campus for Sunday’s doubleheader.

Stenglein posting eye-popping strikeout numbers: Reigning BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week Steffany Stenglein has been close to unhittable in her last 12 starts, compiling 123 strikeouts in those starts. In her last three outings, she has thrown complete games with 15, 14 and 14 strikeouts, respectively. The 2004 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, Stenglein has blown past both the 500 and 600 strikeout barrier this season and currently has 191 strikeouts in `05.

Some other Stenglein strikeout notes:

• She has failed to strikeout at least six batters in only two of 20 game starts in which she has thrown at least four innings.

• She has hit double-digit strikeouts 10 times this season, including a personal-best 15 at Providence.

• She needs 57 more strikeouts this season to catch Jennifer Sharron for second on the all-time strikeout list at Notre Dame – second behind Terri Kobata’s untouchable school mark of 907.

Booth approaching 500 strikeouts: Junior Heather Booth enters this weekend’s action with 496 strikeouts, needing just four more to become the fourth Irish pitcher to post 500 strikeouts in a career (Kobata, Jen. Sharron, Stenglein).

Laing approaching single-season doubles record: Freshman Katie Laing, who has proven to be one of the top clutch hitters on the team this season, is closing in on the school record for doubles in a season. Laing currently has 13 doubles in 2005, just four off the record of 17 held by Lizzy Lemire (1999) and Jenn Giampaolo (1996).

Stenglein leaving her mark on the statistical charts: In addition to her strikeout totals this season, senior righthander Steffany Stenglein has already established the school marks for pitching appearances (137) and starts (121) and is tied for second in innings pitched with 670.0.

Irish have dominated the month of April under Gumpf: Since Deanna Gumpf took over the Irish softball program in 2002 – the team has been close to unbeatable in the month of April. Entering Thursdays’s doubleheader, the Irish are 77-9 (.895) in April over the last four years.

Here is a breakdown of Notre Dame’s record during April since 2002.

2002: 24-1
2003: 21-2
2004: 19-5
2005: 13-1

Irish recent win streak matches 2002 run for longest of Gumpf era: Notre Dame’s recent 20-game win streak matched the 2002 team’s run for the longest of the Deanna Gumpf era at Notre Dame … it also ranks as tied for the second-best all-time behind the 33-game run in 2001 … here is a look at Notre Dame’s winning streak history (minimum streak of 10): • 33 – 3-28-01 to 5-10-01, began with 6-0 victory over Valparaiso, ended with 2-1 loss to Seton Hall at the BIG EAST Championship … loss before streak to #9 CS Fullerton at the Kia Klassic, 5-4.
• 20 – 4-1-03 to 4-27-03, began with 7-3 win at Purdue, ended with 2-1 loss at Connecticut … loss before streak to #22 Northwestern, 3-2.
• 20 – 3-19-05 to 4-19-05, began with 8-0 win vs. Oakland in the Buckeye Invitational, ended with a 7-4 loss at DePaul … loss before the streak 7-4 to Marshall in the Buckeye Invitational.
• 19 – 3-16-96 to 4-11-96, began with 4-2 win over Florida Atlantic at Florida State Tournament, ended with 4-1 loss to Villanova … loss before streak to Bradley, 3-1 at Florida State Tournament.

• 17 – 4-11-98 to 4-28-98, began with 7-0 win over Seton Hall, ended with 4-1 loss to Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship … loss before streak to Purdue, 4-0.
• 14 – 3-30-02 to 4-14-02, began with 13-1 (6) victory at Pittsburgh, ended with 3-0 loss to Syracuse … loss before streak to New Mexico, 5-4.
• 13 – 4-17-02 to 5-3-02, began with 14-1 (5) victory vs. Indiana State, ended with 5-2 loss to Rutgers … loss before streak to Syracuse, 3-0.
• 13 – 4-16-90 – 4-25-90, began with 4-0 victory at Loyola (Chicago), ended with 2-0 loss to Grace College … loss before streak at DePaul, 3-2.
• 12 – 4-22-00 to 5-18-00, began with 7-3 victory at Pittsburgh, ended with 1-0 loss to DePaul in the NCAA Region VI tournament … loss before streak to Indiana State, 3-2.
•11 – 2-26-00 to 3-15-00, began with 2-1 victory over Arkansas at the Morning News Classic in Fayetteville, ended with 2-1 loss to #3 Arizona at the Kia Klassic … loss before streak to Arkansas at the Morning News Classic, 4-2.
• 10 – 4-17-91 to 4-29-91, began with 2-0 victory over St. Joseph (Ind.), ended with 4-0 loss at DePaul … loss before streak to Indiana State, 6-1.

Snapshot of the Irish: Notre Dame has been a streaky team this season – displayed perfectly by the team’s recent 20-game win streak. The Irish bats have endeavored to become a consistent threat, but the pitching staff deserves a majority of the credit for the team’s recent success. Notre Dame is still capable of exploding for huge offensive numbers against any level of competition, however.

Senior team captain Megan Ciolli (.374, 46 H, 8 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 19 SB) has led from the front since the team took the field and set the school record for career stolen bases in `05. Junior Meagan Ruthrauff (.315, 9 2B, 20 RBI) and freshman Katie Lain (.337, 13 2B, 15 RBI) have shown signs of giving Ciolli dedicated support in the Irish lineup.

The pitching staff has been steadily improving for the Irish since the team returned from spring break. Junior Heather Booth (14-5, 1.56 ERA) has turned in just two sub-par starts (vs. Pacific, at DePaul) this season and has five shutouts and 13 complete games to her credit. Senior Steffany Stenglein (1.27 ERA, 191 Ks) has been close to untouchable during the months of March and April. In the end, opponents are hitting just .141 against Stenglein in 2005.

Notre Dame’s defense, unsure of itself early in the season, has benefitted from one positional move. Junior Sara Schoonaert has taken over at shortstop and performed well, while freshman Katie Laing has moved over to second base and been steady.

Sophomore Stephanie Brown (.327, 6 2B, 5 RBI) and junior Kellie Middleton (.301, 14 SB, 10 RBI) have started to give the Irish some production at the top of the lineup as well.

Ciolli looks to continue her climb up the career charts: Along with classmate Liz Hartmann, 2004 third-team All-American and BIG EAST Player of the Year Megan Ciolli has been a three-year starter since stepping on campus in 2001-02. Batting at the top of the lineup for a majority of her career (second freshman season, first sophomore season, third junior season), Ciolli has established herself as one of the top offensive players to ever don an Irish uniform.

Her current career rankings include second in batting average (.368 entering Thursday’s doubleheader), fourth in runs scored, third in hits, ninth in home runs and seventh in triples. She also is poised to break into the top 10 in games played and doubles this season and is on pace to break the hit record this season (needing only 10 more to reach Jenny Kriech’s school mark). A complete list of current Notre Dame players threatening career records appear on page eight of this notes package.

Ciolli’s countdown for all-time records –

Hits: 258 (10 to the record)

Runs: 143 (21 to the record)

Ciolli is also threatening the single-season stolen base mark, needing just two more thefts to match Katie Marten’s school mark.

Ciolli becomes first Notre Dame NPF draft selection: National Pro Fastpitch announced its 2005 Senior College Player Selections last week and current Irish senior Megan Ciolli was selected by the Chicago Bandits with the first selection of the second round (seventh overall).

Due to NCAA regulations, an active college player may not sign with her respective franchise until their 2005 college season is finished. Senior selections expire on July 15, 2005.

The NPF officially announced that it will enter the 2005 season with six teams – the Akron Racers, Arizona Heat, Chicago Bandits, New England Riptide, NY/NJ Juggernaut and the Texas Thunder. The California Sunbirds will remain part of the league but will suspend play in 2005 to restructure the franchise.

The Bandits will be competing in their first season in the NPF and have already signed Olympic Team standout Jennie Finch. The season will run through June 2 through August 28 and will consist of a 48-game regular season schedule for each team, an all-star game, playoffs and a Championship Series. NPF continues to be the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball and has recently developed a new alliance with ASA/USA Softball and the International Softball Federation (ISF). This alliance will help promote international play by inviting teams from China, China Taipei, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and Venezuela to play against NPF teams. A finalized schedule will be released in March.

Ruthrauff reaches 100 career RBI in just two-plus seasons: After senior Liz Hartmann cleared the 100-RBI barrier at Hawaii’s Spring Fling two weeks ago, junior Meagan Ruthrauff has joined her teammate in the 100-RBI club at Notre Dame.

Hartmann became the eighth player to post 100 RBI in a career – and Ruthrauff became the ninth last weekend in BIG EAST action. Ruthrauff drove in 54 last season, becoming just the second Irish player to post over 50 RBI in a season.

16 hits at Loyola Chicago most in two years for ND: Notre Dame’s 16 team hits in a 10-0 victory at Loyola Chicago on Thursday, March 31, are the most for the team since the 2003 season. On April 23 vs. Valparaiso, the Irish pounded out 17 hits in a 15-1 victory. The school record for hits in a single game is 21 against Rhode Island in 1992.

Notre Dame earns second tournament title of 2005 at Hawaii Spring Fling: Notre Dame’s 4-0 run through an abbreviated Spring Fling tournament at the University of Hawaii earned the team its second tournament title of the year. Combined with the GRU Classic (Feb. 10-13 – see note that follows) Notre Dame joins the `01 team as the only Irish team to claim two early-season tournament titles (the `01 squad won the Holiday Inn Invitational at South Florida and the Frost Tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn.).

Notre Dame claims first initial weekend tournament title since 2001: Notre Dame’s three consecutive victories in the GRU Classic (Feb. 10-13) in Gainesville, Fla., pushed the Irish through to the tournament title. The first weekend tournament victory marks the first for Notre Dame since the 2001 season, when the Irish swept through the Holiday Inn Invitational at South Florida with a 5-0 record.

Irish own three wins over ranked teams in 2005: Notre Dame is 24-8 this season and three of those 24 victories have come against ranked teams. The Irish defeated #21 South Florida and #19 Florida on their first weekend out (Feb. 12-13), then knocked off #5/6 Tennessee last weekend in Palm Springs.

Under head coach Deanna Gumpf, the Irish have knocked off at least three ranked teams in three of four seasons (#25 South Florida, #4 Nebraska, #15 Oregon State in `02; #8 Nebraska, #14 Nebraska, #18 Nebraska in `04). The most ranked wins for the Irish came in 2001, when the team defeated eight teams ranked in the national top 25.

First back-to-back ranked wins since 2001: Notre Dame’s victories over #21 South Florida (5-1) on Saturday, Feb. 12, and #19 Florida on Sunday, Feb. 13, marked the first time since the 2001 season the Irish have posted two consecutive wins over a ranked opponents.

During the 2001 season, the Irish swept a doubleheader from #10 DePaul on April 19. To find the last time the Irish defeated two consecutive different ranked teams, you will fall back to 2000, when Notre Dame defeated #16 La.-Lafayette and #6 Oklahoma on March 18 at the Kia Klassic.

South Bend plays host to the 2005 BIG EAST Championship: For the third time in the last four years, the BIG EAST Softball Championship will be held in a neutral/off-campus site in 2005.

After Salem, Va., served as the tournament’s site in 2002 and 2003, the City of South Bend, Ind., will welcome the 2005 BIG EAST Softball Championship to the Belleville Complex on the far west side of town.

The Belleville Complex is one of the best softball-only facilities in Indiana and served as host to over 3,000 fans when the U.S. Olympic Team played an exhibition doubleheader in July of 2005.

California girls: While three trips to the west coast gives the Irish an opportunity to face several of the top teams in the country this season, Notre Dame’s appearances in San Diego (Feb. 18-20), Palm Springs (Feb. 25-27) and the Los Angeles area (March 6-7) also will provide the seven California natives on the team will a chance to play in their home state.

Heather Booth (Riverside), Liz Hartmann (Novato), Carissa Jaquish (Highland), Mallorie Lenn (Garden Grove), Meagan Ruthrauff (La Mirada), Steffany Stenglein (Huntington Beach) and Carrie Wisen (Fullerton) are the seven California natives on the `05 Irish roster.

Incoming freshman class of 2006: University of Notre Dame head softball coach Deanna Gumpf has announced the signing of seven student-athletes to national letters of intent last week, landing one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.

Brittney Bargar (Corona, Calif.), Christine Farrell (La Habra, Calif.), Erin Glasco (Johnston City, Ill.), Linda Kohan (Westminster, Calif.), Alexandra Kotcheff (Beverly Hills, Calif.), Stephanie Mola (Naples, Fla.) and Beth Northway (Kentwood, Mich.) will make up the class of 2009.

“This is one of the best recruiting classes I have seen in my career and I feel it is the best in the country,” Gumpf says of the group.

“The quality and diversity of this class is second to none. The entire staff is excited to have this group of players join the Notre Dame family.”

The class hails from across the country with four California natives, plus players from Michigan, Illinois and Florida. The group also is made up of two pitchers (Bargar, Farrell), a catcher (Glasco), an infielder (Kohan), two outfielders (Kotcheff, Mola) and an infielder/outfielder (Northway) – giving the class excellent balance at all positions.

BIG EAST loses one team before gaining three in 2006: With the shift of Virginia Tech to the ACC for the `05 season, the BIG EAST drops down to 10 teams this season before expanding to 13 teams next year when DePaul, South Florida and Louisville join the league (Marquette and Cincinnati to do not compete in softball).

With the addition of three traditional powers, the BIG EAST Conference will quickly become one of the best softball conferences east of the Mississippi.

Notre Dame will face two of the three new teams entering the league in 2006 this season. The Irish split two games with South Florida at the GRU Classic in Gainesville, Fla., and will travel to DePaul for a doubleheader on April 19.

High school teammates: Sophomore Stephanie Brown and freshman Katie Laing are just the third combination of high school teammates to play for the Irish since the program began. Both Brown and Laing played for Corona del Sol in the Chandler, Ariz., area during their prep careers. Debbie Boulac and Stephanie Pinter, both from South Bend, Ind., and St. Joseph High School, played together from 1990-93. Jennifer Sharron and Jessica Sharron, the first second set of sisters to play for the Irish, were on the Notre Dame roster together in 2000 and 2001.

Sisters Debbie and Diane Boulac both played for the Irish, but were not on the same team together.

Three options to keep track of Irish softball for out-of-town fans: The University of Notre Dame Sports Information Office offers three ways to keep up with Irish softball for fans who are out of town or unable to make it to Ivy Field.

Live Audio play-by-play of Notre Dame home games is available to subscribers of the College Sports Pass on www.und.com. Notre Dame Assistant Sports Information Director handles the play-by-play duties.

Go to Notre Dame’s official athletic website, www.und.com, and click on the audio-video link at the top of the page to learn more about the College Sports Pass.

Gametracker, live statistical updates during Irish home games and selected away games, is also available for free this season.

Finally, for those not around a computer during competition, fans can call the Notre Dame Sports Hotline at 574-631-3000 to get updates on the Irish softball team. The hotline is updated with brief recaps as soon as possible after each Notre Dame game.

To access the softball information on the hotline, dial 574-631-3000, select 4 for baseball/softball, then 2 for softball information.