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#NDSB30 Top Five: 2000s

Jan. 23, 2018

by Tony Jones

Leading up to the start of the 2018 University of Notre Dame softball season, the 30th varsity campaign for the Irish program, will profile five standout moments from each decade of Notre Dame softball.

5. Deanna Gumpf Sweeps the BIG EAST in First Two Seasons as Head Coach

After serving four seasons as an assistant coach under National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame mentor Liz Miller, Deanna Gumpf assumed the reins of the Notre Dame softball program prior to the 2002 season. The first two campaigns for the Gumpf-led Irish continued the success established in the previous six years of BIG EAST membership, capturing both the conference regular-season and tournament championships in 2002 and 2003.

Notre Dame fashioned a 44-17 record during Gumpf’s first season as head coach in 2002, which included an 18-2 mark in BIG EAST play and a May 11 sweep of Virginia Tech (2-1 and 3-1) in the BIG EAST tournament final to place at the top of the conference. Key ranked victories for the Irish that season included a 5-3 win over No. 25 South Florida on Feb. 17, a 3-1 triumph over No. 18 DePaul on May 2, and a 3-2 win over No. 22 Iowa (May 16) and a 2-0 victory against No. 15 Oregon State (May 18) during NCAA Regionals in Iowa City. Jarrah Myers finished the year as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year and as an NFCA All-America Third-Team selection, while teammate Andrea Loman joined on the NFCA All-America Third Team. Gumpf and her coaching staff were named both the BIG EAST Conference and NFCA Mideast Region Coaching Staff of the Year.

Notre Dame captured BIG EAST tournament trophies during Deanna Gumpf's first two seasons as Irish head coach in 2002 and 2003Notre Dame captured BIG EAST tournament trophies during Deanna Gumpf’s first two seasons as Irish head coach in 2002 and 2003
It was more of the same for Notre Dame in 2003, as a 38-17 record (14-3 in the BIG EAST) and perfect 3-0 romp through the conference tournament landed the Irish in NCAA Regionals in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Notre Dame enjoyed a 20-game winning streak that lasted from April 1-April 26, and the Irish ultimately finished the season receiving votes in the NFCA national top 25. Loman was tabbed as the BIG EAST Player of the Year and repeated as an NFCA All-America Third-Team choice.

4. Notre Dame Hosts First NCAA Regional, Reaching Final at Ivy Field in 2005

In its 10th all-time appearance in the NCAA Championship in 2005, Notre Dame earned the right to host the postseason tournament for the very first time. On the strength of a 44-13 record at the conclusion of the regular season and BIG EAST tournament, the Irish were tabbed to welcome the No. 9 NCAA Regional to Ivy Field on May 20-22 of that year.

On top of a 16-2 BIG EAST Conference record that again paced the league, Notre Dame ultimately notched five wins over ranked opponents in 2005. Top-25 foes that fell to the Irish that season were No. 21 South Florida (5-1 on Feb. 12), No. 19 Florida (4-2 on Feb. 13), No. 5 Tennessee (5-2 on Feb. 27), No. 15 Northwestern (4-3 on April 26) and No. 18 Northwestern (3-2 on May 21).

More than 500 spectators witnessed the first NCAA Regional game ever held on the Notre Dame campus on May 20, 2005, against Louisville. Fans saw the Irish erase a two-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to RBI singles from Megan Ciolli and Carrie Wisen to defeat Louisville 3-2. The Notre Dame pitching tandem of Steffany Stenglein (8) and Heather Booth (9) combined to record 17 strikeouts over seven innings in the triumph over the Cardinals.

Heather Booth spun 4.1 scoreless innings of relief with nine strikeouts to earn the win over Louisville in the opening game of NCAA Regionals in 2005Heather Booth spun 4.1 scoreless innings of relief with nine strikeouts to earn the win over Louisville in the opening game of NCAA Regionals in 2005

3. Irish Establish Program Wins Record, Reach National Top 10 in 2001

The 2001 Irish softball team forever etched its name into the annals of not only Notre Dame athletics, but the NCAA softball community at large. In what would be the final season in the decorated coaching career of Liz Miller, Notre Dame posted a 54-7 record (20-0 in BIG EAST play) to firmly announce itself as one of the nation’s premier programs.

Notre Dame’s 2001 edition established a program record by downing nine top-25 opponents during the campaign, including top-10 triumphs over No. 4 Washington (3-2 on Feb. 17), No. 7 Fresno State (4-2 on March 15), No. 10 Arizona State (5-1 on March 17) and No. 10 DePaul (7-6 and 5-1 on April 19). Lizzy Lemire and Jen Sharron swept the yearly BIG EAST awards as league player and pitcher of the year, and seven players (Notre Dame single-season record) were named to the all-conference first team.

Jen Sharron swept BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year honors in each of her four seasons at Notre Dame (1998-2001)
After reaching a high watermark of eighth on May 2 in the NFCA top-25 poll, Notre Dame ultimately finished the season as the 11th-ranked team in the country. The 2001 Irish squad still holds the distinction of being the only Notre Dame softball team to be featured in the national top 10, as well as the lone Irish edition to clear the 50-win plateau in a season. Lemire, Sharron and Jarrah Myers wound up representing the United States in international competition during the summer of 2001.

2. Notre Dame Cements Status as BIG EAST Team of the 2000s

Just how dominant was Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Conference during the first decade of the new millennium? Six regular-season championships, five tournament titles, nine combined player and pitcher of the year awards and 69 all-conference selections later, the Irish staked their claim as the toast of the league in the 2000s.

Notre Dame swept the regular-season BIG EAST hardware from 2000-05, riding the top seed in the BIG EAST tournament to victory in 2000, 2002 and 2003. The Irish added tournament trophies in both 2006 and 2009. Notre Dame’s official BIG EAST record from 2000-09 was a sterling 161-35 (.821), and the Irish never finished below 13 league wins in a season during that span.

Notre Dame capped the 2000s with its fifth BIG EAST tournament title of the decade in 2009Notre Dame capped the 2000s with its fifth BIG EAST tournament title of the decade in 2009
When Notre Dame finally left the BIG EAST for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) after the 2013 campaign, the Irish sported some 297 conference victories, 13 regular-season crowns and the legacy of being the most decorated team in the league during their 18-year tenure.

1. Notre Dame’s 33-Game Winning Streak in 2001, By the Numbers

Not to be lost in the historic 2001 Notre Dame softball season was the 33-game winning streak the Irish embarked on from March to May that set a standard of excellence that paced the NCAA that season and has yet to be equaled in program history.

The streak modestly began on March 28, 2001, thanks to a 6-0 win in game one of a doubleheader against Valparaiso. Notre Dame ace Jen Sharron spun a two-hit shutout in that victory, walking no batters and striking out 14 in seven innings. This pitching gem set the Irish on the fast track with a stellar month-plus run.

Notre Dame would ultimately outscore foes by a combined 193-20 during the winning streak, batting .340 as a club to the meager .131 clip of its opponents. The Irish pitching staff yielded 15 extra-base hits, and just one home run, with only 35 walks issued and 286 strikeouts in 220.0 innings. Sharron, who ultimately was named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year for the fourth straight season, won 16 of her 17 appearances during the streak, posting an 0.76 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 107.0 innings pitched.

2001 BIG East Player of the Year Lizzy Lemire helped power the Notre Dame offense during the longest winning streak (33 games) in program history2001 BIG East Player of the Year Lizzy Lemire helped power the Notre Dame offense during the longest winning streak (33 games) in program history

Lizzy Lemire, who went on to be named the BIG EAST Player of the Year at season’s end, batted .374 with 11 extra-base hits, 30 RBI and 26 runs scored during the winning streak to pace the high-powered Notre Dame offense. Other standout offensive performers included Jarrah Myers (.387, four home runs, 24 RBI, .634 slugging percentage), Andrea Loman (.378, 10 doubles, 25 RBI, .598 slugging percentage) and Jenny Kriech (.362, seven triples, 15 RBI, 12 steals, 31 runs scored).

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Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball, men’s soccer and swimming and diving programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.