Junior Gessica Hufnagle hit her first career home run against Valparaiso on Thursday, April 27.

Irish Ready For BIG EAST Championship Challenge

May 11, 2005

Complete Release in PDF Format, including updated biographies for all Irish players
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2005 BIG EAST Championship
Belleville Complex • South Bend, Ind.
Thursday, May 12
Game One: #2 Seton Hall (30-13, 15-3) vs. #3 Syracuse (27-20, 11-7), 5 p.m.
Game Two: #1 Notre Dame (42-11, 16-2) vs. #4 Villanova (38-23, 10-8), 7 p.m.
Friday, May 13
Game Three: Winner Game One vs. Winner Game Two, 3 p.m.
Game Four: Loser Game One vs. Loser Game Two, 5 p.m.
Game Five: Loser Game Three vs. Winner Game Four, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 14
Game Six: winner Game Three vs. Winner Game Five, 1 p.m.
Game Seven (if necessary): Same teams as Game Six, 3 p.m.

Live coverage: Each game of the 2005 BIG EAST Championship will be available to monitor via Gametracker live statistics on www.und.com (click here). The BIG EAST Championship page also will have game recaps, boxscores and an updated tournament schedule.

Notre Dame looks to regain BIG EAST title this weekend in South Bend: The University of Notre Dame softball team (42-11) begins postseason action this weekend in South Bend, Ind., at the 2005 BIG EAST Championship. The conference regular-season champions, Notre Dame will face the fourth-seed, Villanova (38-23, 10-8) at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The double elimination tournament will begin with the #2 seed, Seton Hall (30-13, 15-3) taking on the #3 seed Syracuse (27-20, 11-7) at 5 p.m.

Both games on Thursday will be preceded by the BIG EAST softball awards brunch at 11 a.m. in downtown South Bend. The BIG EAST player of the year, pitcher of the year, rookie of the year and all-conference honors will be announced at the event.

Notre Dame will be going for its fifth BIG EAST Championship this weekend. The Irish won the title in 1999 and 2000 under former head coach Liz Miller and claimed back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 under current head coach Deanna Gumpf.

Notre Dame quick hits: What you need to know about the Irish for this weekend’s action:

• Notre Dame is looking to regain the BIG EAST title after Seton Hall knocked off the Irish 5-2 in eight innings during last year’s tournament.

• An automatic bid to the NCAA Championship will be awarded to this weekend’s tournament winner.

• Seton Hall is looking for its second consecutive title in its seventh appearance. Syracuse is looking for its first title in its second appearance. Villanova is searching for its first title in its 11th appearance.

Quick series history vs. this weekend’s opponents:

Notre Dame vs. Villanova – The Irish lead the all-time series 28-3, including a doubleheader sweep this season on April 4 (4-0, 2-0) … Villanova defeated Notre Dame during the 2001 BIG EAST Championship 1-0.

Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall – The Irish lead the all-time series 23-6 … the two teams split a doubleheader at Ivy Field on April 24, with SHU winning game one 2-1 in nine innings and the Irish cruising to a 11-4 victory in game two … Seton Hall has won five of the last six meetings between the two teams – including two wins in the 2004 BIG EAST Championship in Syracuse.

Notre Dame vs. Syracuse – The Irish lead the all-time series 10-1, including a doubleheader sweep on May 1 (6-1, 7-3) … Syracuse’s win in the series was a 3-0 victory in 2002 at Ivy Field.

Notre Dame BIG EAST Championship history: Notre Dame will be making its 10th appearance in 10 years of BIG EAST Conference play this weekend … the Irish have won four BIG EAST titles (2003, 2002, 2000, 1999) … although the Irish have claimed the number one seed in the previous nine tournaments, they have struggled a bit in the conference championship … the team has an overall record of 19-11 (.633) in BIG EAST Championship play and finished as the runner up in 2004 and 1996 … Notre Dame has failed to win one game at the championship just twice, in 1998 (when the Irish hosted the tournament) and 2001 at Villanova … the Irish have recovered from a loss in the tournament to claim the league title once during the 2002 season – when the championship was held in Salem, Va. … the Irish lost game one to Virginia Tech, then came back to win four straight games, including two over the Hokies on the final day.

Notre Dame in BIG EAST Championship play –

1996 (at Boston College) – vs. Providence (W, 3-2), vs. Connecticut (L, 0-3), vs. Villanova (W, 4-0), vs. Connecticut (W, 6-3), vs. Connecticut (L, 0-1)

1997 (at Connecticut) – vs. Boston College (L, 1-3), vs. Rutgers (W, 11-8), vs. Connecticut (L, 1-2)

1998 (at Notre Dame) – vs. Connecticut (L, 1-4), vs. Rutgers (L, 0-1)

1999 (at Connecticut) – vs. Connecticut (W, 4-1), vs. Boston College (W, 9-4), vs. Seton Hall (W, 5-1)

2000 (at Boston College) – vs. Boston College (W, 5-2), vs. Connecticut (W, 5-0), vs. Connecticut (W, 7-0)

2001 (at Villanova) – vs. Seton Hall (L, 1-2), vs. Villanova (L, 0-1)

2002 (at Salem, Va.) – vs. Virginia Tech (L, 3-8), vs. Syracuse (W, 5-4), vs. Villanova (W, 6-4), vs. Virginia Tech (W, 2-1), vs. Virginia Tech (W, 3-1)

2003 (at Salem, Va.) – vs. Seton Hall (W, 9-0), vs. Villanova (W, 9-7), vs. Villanova (W, 3-2 in nine innings)

2004 (at Syracuse) – vs. Boston College (W, 4-1), vs. Seton Hall (L, 1-2 in eight innings), vs. Villanova (W, 2-0), vs. Seton Hall (L, 2-5 in eight innings).

BIG EAST Championship Irish quick facts: All-time record – 19-11 (.633) … appearances 10 (including this season) … most common opponent – Connecticut (4-4) … most common opponent in this year’s field – Villanova (5-1) … most games played in a tournament – five (4-1 in 2002) … least games played in a victorious tournament – three (three times in 1999, 2000 and 2003) … Most Outstanding Player awards – four (Andrea Loman in `03 and `02, Melanie Alkire in `00, Jennifer Sharron in `99).

Ruthrauff named BIG EAST Player of the Week: After pounding out four hits, three doubles and six RBI during Saturday’s doubleheader sweep at Rutgers, junior Meagan Ruthrauff has been named the Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week by the conference office. She shared the award with Villanova’s Kari Koller.

Ruthrauff finished game one of the doubleheader at Rutgers one for two at the plate with a three-run double and sacrifice fly. She followed up in game two with a three for four performance, hitting two more doubles and a single while driving in two more runs. For the week she finished four of six at the plate with three doubles and six RBI.

The conference weekly award is the first of the year for Ruthrauff and fourth of her career.

Notre Dame claims 10th consecutive BIG EAST regular-season title: Notre Dame has earned a BIG EAST regular-season crown every year it has competed in the BIG EAST – it joined the league in 1996 … in the first three years of competition, the conference was divided into the north and south division, with the Irish claiming the south division title in 1996 (19-1), 1997 (16-4) and 1998 (13-3) … once the conference shifted to just one division, the Irish have won seven straight titles – 1999 (16-0), 2000 (14-2), 2001 (20-0), 2002 (18-2), 2003 (14-3), 2004 (18-2) and 2005 (16-2).

Stenglein posting eye-popping strikeout numbers: Two-time BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week Steffany Stenglein has been a dominating force in the pitcher’s circle this season. Throwing 14 double-digit strikeout games in 2005, Stenglein currently averages 11.3 strikeouts per seven innings.

Some other Stenglein strikeout notes:

• She has failed to strikeout at least six batters in only two of 26 game starts in which she has thrown at least four innings.

• She has hit double-digit strikeouts 14 times this season, including a personal-best and school record 19 in game one vs. Seton Hall.

• She is now second on the all-time career strikeout list and second on the single season strikeout list with 274 (41 behind Terri Kobata’s school record of 315 in 1994).

Booth reaches 500 strikeouts: Junior Heather Booth became the fourth Irish pitcher to post 500 strikeouts in a career (Kobata, Jen. Sharron, Stenglein) last weekend and now boasts 550 – fourth on the all-time list.

Laing and Ruthrauff 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 16 doubles in 2005, just one off the record of 17 held by Lizzy Lemire (1999) and Jenn Giampaolo (1996). Junior Meagan Ruthrauff is not far behind her teammate with 15 doubles this season.

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 (148) and starts (127) and is second in innings pitched with 714.0, fifth in shutouts (19) and second in wins (78).

Stenglein sets school record for strikeouts in a single game: Senior Steffany Stenglein nabbed another record on Monday, April 25, against Seton Hall. The righthander pitched all nine innings, giving up three hits in a tough-luck loss – but set the school record for strikeouts in a single game. Stenglein set down 19 Pirate batters in the game, besting Terri Kobata’s record of 17 vs. Butler in 1995 and Indiana State in 1994. Kobata will still own the seven-inning record. Stenglein’s seven-inning best this season is 15 at Providence.

Stenglein reaches 250 strikeouts: Senior righthander Steffany Stenglein became just the second Irish pitcher to post 250 strikeouts in a single season this year. She enters this weekend with 274 Ks. Only Terri Kobata (315 in `94, 250 in `95) has reached the 250-strikeout plateau in a season prior to Stenglein’s performance this season.

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. Finishing with a 20-3 April mark this year, the Irish are 84-11 (.884) 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: 20-3

Notre Dame in BIG EAST regular-season play: Notre Dame finished with a 16-2 record in BIG EAST Conference play this season, continuing its tradition of excellence during the league’s regular-season play. The Irish have lost four games in conference play only once since it joined the league in 1996 and boasts an overall record of 164-19 (.896). Notre Dame’s BIG EAST regular-season records: 1996 – 19-1, 1997 – 16-4, 1998 – 13-3, 1999 – 16-0, 2000 – 14-2, 2001 – 20-0, 2002 – 18-2, 2003 – 14-3, 2004 – 18-2, 2005 – 16-2.

The Irish have won 10 consecutive BIG EAST regular-season crowns since 1996.

Irish recent win streak matches 2002 run for longest of Gumpf era: Notre Dame’s 20-game win streak in April 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 19):

• 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.

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 four-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 (.371 entering post season play), second in runs scored, first in hits, ninth in home runs and seventh in triples. She also has broken into the top 10 in games played and doubles this season and already broke the single season and career mark for steals this year. 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 –

Runs: 157 (seven to the record)

Ciolli already set the single season record for stolen bases this year when she swiped her 22nd. She currently has 30 in 2005.

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 during this season’s BIG EAST action. Ruthrauff drove in 54 last season, becoming just the second Irish player to post over 50 RBI in a season. The Irish first base currently has 115 career RBI.

Senior Megan Ciolli is looking to join her teammates in this category as well. She enters postseason play with 95 career RBI.

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 four wins over ranked teams in 2005: Notre Dame is 42-11 this season and four of those 36 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. Notre Dame also defeated #15 Northwestern with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh on Tuesday, April 26.

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.

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.