May 9, 1999
STORRS, Conn.– The Notre Dame softball team (41-18) won its first ever BIG EAST Championship by beating Seton Hall, 5-1, Sunday at the University of Connecticut Softball Field in Storrs, Conn. With the win, the Irish claimed an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and became the first team in BIG EAST Conference history to go undefeated in both the regular season and championship with a perfect 19-0 record. Sophomore pitcher Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.), the two-time BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, also was honored as the tournament’s most outstanding player after picking up all three Irish wins and batting a team-high .565 (5-for-9) at the plate.
Notre Dame, which defeated Connecticut and Boston College on Saturday to advance, faced second-seed Seton Hall (39-7) in the championship game. The Pirates defeated both Connecticut (4-1) and two-time defending Big East champion Boston College (3-2) earlier in the day to earn the right to face the Irish.
The championship final went scoreless until the bottom of the second inning when freshman Angie Grimmer (Crown Point, Ind.), who was pinch running for catcher Kris McCleary (Westerville, Ohio), scored on a two-out single to left field by Sharron. Notre Dame starting pitcher Angela Bessolo (Lakewood, Calif.) held the Pirates to just one hit with seven strikeouts through five innings before being replaced by Sharron in the top of the sixth. Seton Hall took advantage of the pitching change to score what would turn out to be their lone run after rightfielder Natalie Denning reached base after being hit by a pitch and then scored from second on an RBI-single to left-center field by third baseman Vickie Lamb.
With the score then tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, McCleary once again led off the inning with a single to left field and the next batter, Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.) reached base on a bunt single. With runners on first and second, freshman Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kan.) slammed Pirate pitcher Jen Berghoff’s first pitch down the left field line for a two-run double and what would prove to be the game winning runs. The Irish would score twice more in the inning for the final 5-1 score.
The Irish advance to their fourth NCAA Tournament and make their first appearance since 1996. The team will find out when and where it plays in the 48-team tournament next Sunday, May 16, at 7 p.m.