Head coach Deanna Gumpf

Irish Set For BIG EAST Championship

May 9, 2012

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame looks to build upon its 15-game winning streak when it plays host to the 2012 BIG EAST Conference Softball Championship (May 10-12) at Melissa Cook Stadium. Joining Notre Dame in search of the league crown will be Louisville, Syracuse, USF, DePaul, St. John’s, Rutgers and Connecticut.

Picked second in the BIG EAST preseason coaches poll, Notre Dame finished the league slate with a 16-3 record and enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Notre Dame is the second-seeded team in the tournament and will face Rutgers at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Thursday.

The Fighting Irish have won 15 straight games – including 11 conference tilts – and are making their 17th straight trip to the BIG EAST Championship, having qualified for the tournament every year since joining the conference in 1996.

Notre Dame is looking for its seventh conference crown and first since 2009.

The Scarlet Knights are participating in the championship for the third consecutive season, a feat they had yet to accomplish since joining the league in 1996.

All first and second round games will be streamed on BIGEAST.tv while the championship game will be televised live on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. (ET) Saturday.

Live stats for each game will be available at UND.com.

BIG EAST Championship Schedule
Thursday, May 10 - BIGEAST.tv10:00 a.m. - Game 1: No. 4 USF vs. No. 5 DePaul12:30 p.m. - Game 2: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 Connecticut4:00 p.m. - Game 3: No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 6 St. John's6:30 p.m. - Game 4: No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Rutgers
Friday, May 12 - BIG EAST.tv4:00 p.m. - Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner6:30 p.m. - Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner
Saturday, May 13 - ESPN26:00 p.m. - Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner
*all times local to site (ET) and subject to change

One-Hitters …

– The BIG EAST Conference has sponsored a softball championship tournament since 1990.

– The top eight teams in the final regular-season conference standings advance to the championship, and the winner of the now single-elimination tournament receives the conference’s automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

– Notre Dame has won the league championship title six times, with each of the six victories coming in the last 13 seasons … the Irish joined the BIGâ⒬ˆEAST in 1996.

– Two of Notre Dame’s most notable tournament runs occurred at Salem, Va., … in 2002, the Irish rallied from a first-day loss to win four straight games to claim the tournament title in Deanna Gumpf’s first season … the next season, the Irish utilized a walk-off home run by Andrea Loman in the bottom of the ninth inning to capture their second straight league title … bolstered by that home run, Loman became the third BIGâ⒬ˆEASTâ⒬ˆplayer to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player trophy two times (UConn’s Bridgett McCaffery and Janna Venice also earned the award twice) and joined McCaffery as just the second BIGâ⒬ˆEAST player to claim the award in back-to-back tournaments.

– In 2006, behind the strong pitching of senior hurler Heather Booth, the Irish won their three tournament games over Providence, Pittsburgh and No. 18 Louisville by the combined score of 10-1 … Booth started and threw complete games in all three games of the tournament, including a one-hit shutout of No. 18 Louisville in the championship game … for her efforts, Booth was named the 2006 Most Outstanding Player.

– Notre Dame beat three teams – St. John’s, No. 17 Louisville and No. 19 DePaul – without allowing an earned run en route to claiming the program’s sixth BIG EAST Tournament title in 2009 … not only did Notre Dame hand Louisville just its second home loss of the season, but the Irish became the only team to blank the Cardinals on the year … it was the first time Notre Dame beat ranked opponents in two consecutive contests since 2005 and the first time the Irish beat a pair of top-20 teams on consecutive tries since 2000 … Brittney Bargar, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, earned two shutout wins while giving up eight hits.

– Notre Dame will host the 2012 BIG EAST Championship at Melissa Cook Stadium from May 10-12 … Notre Dame also played host to the event in 1998 (Ivy Field), 2005 (Belleville Softball Complex), 2006 (Ivy Field) and 2007 (Belleville Softball Complex).

– Notre Dame is receiving votes in both the NFCA and USA Softball top 25 polls … the Irish are ranked 29th in the NCAA RPI.

Dani Miller inches close to a pair of Notre Dame home run records … Miller needs one more to match the single-season record (17) set by Christine Lux and Heather Johnson in 2010 … Miller needs two home runs to tie the career mark achieved by Lux (50) from 2007-10.

– Miller (54) and Amy Buntin (53) are only the second set of teammates in program history to record over 50 RBI in the same season … both Johnson (68) and Lux (62) did so in 2010.

Laura Winter has been on tear in the circle, recording 11 straight wins in as many decisions to wrap up the regular season … Winter, ranked second in the NCAA with 0.61 walks allowed per 7.0 innings, has not allowed an earned run in her last 19.2 innings of action … earlier in the season, Winter went 19.1 innings without allowing an earned run … Winter leads the BIG EAST in ERA (1.21) and wins (13).

– Winter tossed her second straight solo shutout and Chloe Saganowich belted her first career home run as Notre Dame ended the regular season with a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh (May 5) to sweep the three-game league series … paired with 12 strikeouts, the solo shutout was the eighth of Winter’s career as the righty extended her winning streak from the circle to 11 games in as many decisions … with its 15th consecutive win, Notre Dame is riding its longest winning streak since posting 19 straight victories midway through the 2005 campaign.

– Miller smashed five home runs from April 24-29 and went yard in four straight games as the Irish picked up wins over Michigan State, Seton Hall and Providence … Miller also belted a grand slam in the third of three games at Providence while Alexa Maldonado slammed a pair of home runs in the 14-2 rout of the Friars … Winter fanned 38 batters in 23.0 innings of work for four wins … Winter logged a career-high 15 strikeouts in game one versus the Friars.

– Notre Dame swept its three-game league series with DePaul (April 21-22), the first sweep of the Blue Demons since 2006 … Winter tossed her second career no-hitter with a 3-0 blanking of DePaul in the opening game of the series … Winter held DePaul to one earned run in 20.2 innings of action in the three-game set … Buntin led the Irish offense with three home runs and a 1.143 slugging pct. on the week.

– Head coach Deanna Gumpf notched her 450th career win when the Irish defeated DePaul on April 21.

– Winter’s three-hitter guided Notre Dame to a 4-1 win at Rutgers (April 11) before the Irish dropped game two to split their midweek series against the Scarlet Knights and snap a nine-game winning streak … despite the loss, the Irish have now won at least eight straight games in each of the last 13 seasons … Kelsey Thornton scored from third on Jenna Caira’s wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh to secure a 4-3 walk-off win for Notre Dame in the first of three games against Syracuse (April 14-15) … the Orange won the next two to capture the series.

– The Irish picked up a pair of midseason non-conference wins over Big Ten foes Northwestern (April 4) and Purdue (April 5) … Notre Dame scored five first-inning runs over Northwestern during a 9-1 rout of the Wildcats in five innings, the program’s first win against Northwestern since 2005 … Purdue had its eight-game winning streak snapped by Notre Dame by an 8-6 margin in West Lafayette.

– Playing for the first time at home in 2012, Notre Dame won each of its six contests from March 27-April 1, including three during a league series with Connecticut … the Irish needed all of Buntin’s three-run walk-off homer in the home opener against Western Michigan … Buntin would homer in her next at-bat one day later against Toledo and finished the week with a .556 average from the dish … Winter earned four wins in four starts while posting a 1.40 ERA in 25.0 innings of work.