Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Notre Dame Softball Opens Play This Weekend

Feb. 15, 2000

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 2000 Notre Dame softball season kicks off this weekend with the 16-team University of Nevada-Las Vegas Tournament, February 18-20. The Irish will play five games over the three-day span with no tournament final planned.

This is the first year that Notre Dame will be starting its season in Las Vegas, having begun 1998 and 1999 at South Florida and 1996 and 1997 at Arizona State.

Starting Out In First: The 2000 Notre Dame softball team has been chosen to finish first in the BIG EAST in a preseason poll of conference coaches released January 19. The Irish, with eight of the nine first-place votes, finished with 64 votes overall, 11 more than Boston College, which finished second in the voting with 53.

Notre Dame junior pitcher Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) was selected the BIG EAST preseason pitcher of the year, while junior shortstop Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) was picked as the BIG EAST preseason player of the year. Sharron and Alkire were joined on the 12-member preseason all-BIG EAST Team by outfielders Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.) and Jennifer Kriech (Indianapolis, Ind.), giving the Irish the most selections of any of the conference’s nine teams. Sharron also was the only unanimous selection to the preseason team.

The Irish are coming off a 42-20 season in which they won their first BIG EAST championship and advanced to the NCAA regional round. Sharron earned her second nod in as many seasons as the 1999 BIG EAST pitcher of the year, while Alkire was honored as the 1999 BIG EAST player of the year. Sharron, Alkire, Lemire and Kriech were all-BIG EAST first team selections in 1999.

Boston College placed three players on the preseason all-BIG EAST team including pitcher Mary Dietz, catcher Summer Jarratt and utility player Lauren Fischetti. Villanova and Connecticut both contributed two players to the preseason team.

2000 BIG EAST Preseason Awards/Poll

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Melanie Alkire, Notre Dame
PRESEASON PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Jennifer Sharron, Notre Dame

2000 Softball Preseason Coaches Poll 2000 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
1. Notre Dame (8) 64 P Mary Dietz, Boston College
2. Boston College (1) 53 P *Jennifer Sharron, ND
3. Connecticut 47 C Summer Jarratt, Boston College
4. Seton Hall 46 IF Melanie Alkire, ND
5. Villanova 37 IF Vicki Lamb, Seton Hall
6. Rutgers 31 IF Jackie Pasquerella, Villanova
7. Providence 18 IF Jessica Yanosy, Connecticut
8. Pittsburgh 17 OF Mia Brickhouse, Villanova
9. St. John’s 11 OF Lizzy Lemire, ND
OF Jennifer Kriech, ND
U Lauren Fischetti, Boston Coll.
DP Megan Biddle, Connecticut

In Action – Scouting the Field: Three of Notre Dame’s five opponents at this weekend’s UNLV Tournament are first time foes. The Irish have never faced Portland State, Southern Utah or Utah, while they have played Oregon twice and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) once (see bar on page two).

The Vikings: Portland State, which faces Virginia prior to its meeting with the Irish, finished last season with a 12-37 record as an independent with notable victories over Oregon and Oregon State.

This year, under head coach Teri Mariani, the Vikings will be led by senior third baseman Jessica Guerrero, who was first on the team in batting a year ago with a .321 average. Junior Kiauna Anderson (20 runs scored in 1999) adds offensive punch for Portland State, while sophomore pitcher Kelly Riskey (6-14 overall in ’99) leads a young Viking pitching staff.

Overall, Portland State returns seven of its nine starters from a year ago and seven of its 12 letterwinners.

The Thunderbirds: Southern Utah returns just three of its nine starters from last year’s squad, which went 10-48 overall, including a 18-game mid-season losing streak. So far in 2000, the Thunderbirds are 0-2 with both losses coming to this weekend’s tournament host UNLV on February 5.

Coached by Laurel Simmons, only four of the team’s 14 players have previous varsity experience with the Thunderbirds, including top returnee and the team’s only senior Sarah Poloni, who hit .253 with 22 runs scored, 43 hits, eight doubles and four triples.

The Ducks: Garnering the 29th-most votes in the NFCA/USA Today preseason poll, Oregon went 4-1 to open its 2000 season at the Izuzu Motors Invitational at Texas-Arlington, Feb. 11-13. The Ducks defeated Texas-Arlington (11-3), Southwest Texas (10-2), Bethune-Cookman (13-5), and Tulsa (11-0) before losing to fifth-ranked Southern Mississippi (3-0).

Under head coach Rick Gamez, Oregon returns seven of its nine starters from the 1999 squad which advanced to the NCAA regionals and finished with a 40-29 record and a #25 national ranking. Catcher Missy Coe, who hit .362 in 1999, leads a powerful Duck lineup, while pitchers Danielle Haag (9-5 in ’99) and Connie McMurren (15-14) both return.

The last time Oregon and Notre Dame faced each other was in 1996 at the NSCA Leadoff Classic, which resulted in a 9-2 Irish victory. The two schools’ first meeting was in 1993, a 5-2 Oregon win.

The Gauchos: Notre Dame will look to avenge its 1999 loss to UC Santa Barbara when the two teams face each other Saturday, Feb.19. The Gauchos won the two schools’ last meeting (6-2) at the National Invitational Tournament in San Jose, Calif.

This season, UCSB is 3-1 with wins over Santa Clara twice and St. Mary’s. Under head coach Liz Kelly, the Gauchos are led by senior outfielder Tonya Dias, who earned first team all-Big West and second team all-region honors a year ago. Currently, sophomore second baseman Kim Sawyer leads the starting corps with a .455 batting average, while senior Mandy Edwards has tallied six RBI so far in 2000.

The Utes: The Irish finish their tournament schedule with Utah, a team which is 0-3 to start the 2000 season having lost to Cal State Fullerton, Oregon State and Wisconsin at the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., last weekend.

The Utes, under head coach Mona Stevens, return seven of their nine starters from 1999 and are picked to finish first in the inaugural Mountain West Conference. The team’s top returnees include pitcher Kristin Arbogast (9-14, 3.45 ERA in ’99), outfielder Jenny Monson (.241 bat avg., 21 runs, 35 hits) and catcher Sunny Smith (.311 avg., 50 hits, 30 RBI).

Defensive Switch: The Irish are in for more moves on the defensive side of the diamond again in 2000. Head coach Liz Miller has new faces penned in for starting positions at first base, second base, third base and behind the plate. Freshmen Andrea Loman (first base) and Andria Bledsoe (third base) are set to occupy the corners, while sophomore Jarrah Myers moves from third base to catcher. Another freshman, Alexis Madrid, is expected to start at second base for the Irish in 2000.

Going Yard: After hitting just four home runs as a team in 1998, Notre Dame erupted for a team record 29 in 1999, beating the previous school record of 17 set back in 1994.

This season, the Irish return four of the six players who tallied home runs in 1999, led by junior Melanie Alkire who belted a school-record and career-best 10.

Friend or foe?: The Irish will see some familiar faces on the coaching side of the ball this season. Several former Notre Dame players are currently division I assistant coaches, including former standouts Sara Hayes (1992-95), who is in her fifth season at DePaul, and Christy Connoyer (1991-94), who is in her fourth season at Purdue.

The Class of 1999 also had all three of its members move onto college coaching positions. Kris McCleary is an assistant at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Amy Laboe is an assistant at Northern Illinois and Angela Bessolo is an assistant at University of Mobile in Alabama.

Two more familiar faces will return to Ivy Field when Notre Dame plays host to Loyola-Chicago, April 16. Former assistant coach Stephenie Henderson (1998-99) is now the head coach of the Ramblers, while former Irish standout Ruth Kmak (1989-92) is one of Henderson’s assistants.

Tourney time: After winning its first early-season tournament title of the Liz Miller era in 1999, Notre Dame will participate in five early-season tournaments in five different states in 2000, including the UNLV Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., the Morning News Invite in Fayetteville, Ark., the Stateline University Classic in Bristol, Tenn., the Kia Classic in Fullerton, Calif., and the Purdue Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind.

Seniorless: For the second time in the program’s 12-year history, Notre Dame will be without a senior class. The Irish have five juniors, six sophomores and six freshmen on their 2000 roster. The only other time the team did not have any seniors was back in 1990.

The Big Switch: Beginning in 2000, Notre Dame will make a jump from the Mideast to the Northeast region for NCAA regional ranking consideration. The bi-weekly rankings are used as part of the championship tournament selection process and will make the team’s BIG EAST games (all of which are against schools in the Northeast region) even more important.

It’s On the Web: This season there will be a variety of things available on Notre Dame’s official website including box scores, play-by-play, updated results and statistics, as well as every weekly release.

Conrad named assistant coach: Two-time first team All-American and former Michigan standout Traci Conrad has been named an assistant softball coach at Notre Dame. Conrad replaces Stephenie Henderson who took over the head coaching position at Loyola-Chicago.

Conrad, a native of Frankfort, Ill., will help coach the batters and infielders and assist Notre Dame head coach Liz Miller in all administrative aspects of the program.

The Big Ten career hits leader won numerous national awards while playing four years at first base under Wolverine head coach Carol Hutchins. As a senior in 1999, she was named a Honda Award Finalist and a third team All-American, while receiving her second nod as Big Ten Player of the Year and Michigan team MVP.

As a junior, Conrad, a four-time all district selection, helped the Wolverines to a national number two ranking for 10 straight weeks, earning first team All-America honors. Her sophomore season, Conrad helped the Wolverines advance to their third straight Women’s College World Series, earning first team All-America honors and her first of three selections to the Big Ten first team.

As a freshman, Conrad was named to the Women’s College World Series all-tournament team and earned such accolades as Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Michigan Rookie of the Year.

Conrad also earned a gold medal while playing for the United States’ 1997 Pan Am Qualifier team in Medellin, Columbia, and was a participant in the 1997 and 1998 USA Softball National Team Festival.

Off the field, Conrad was a first (1998) and second (1999) team GTE Academic All-American and a three-time academic all-district team selection.

After graduating from Michigan in May 1999 with a bachelor of arts degree in sports management and communications, Conrad helped lead the Akron Racers to the Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL) championship series, where they finished as league runners-up.

Irish sign pitcher, outfielder for Class of 2004: Notre Dame head softball coach Liz Miller announced the signings November 17, 1999, of two high school seniors to national letters of intent. Pitcher Kristin Schmidt (Houston, Texas) and outfielder Nicole deFau (Southington, Conn.) will make up Notre Dame’s class of 2004.

Schmidt, one of the top pitchers in the state of Texas for the past two years, was a first team All-American in 1999 and is a two-time all-state selection. A senior at North Shore Senior High School, Schmidt had a 19-1 record with 229 strikeouts, only two walks and a 0.05 earned-run average as a junior.

Schmidt also led her summer team, Texas Heat Gold, to a ninth-place finish at last summer’s Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Gold National Championships, earning second team all-tournament honors.

The team’s other signee, deFau, is a two time all-state honoree from Southington High School. The outfielder led Southington to the team state championship title her freshman and junior seasons, while the team was the state runners-up in 1998.

deFau played on the same summer team, the Wallingford Tradition, as current Notre Dame sophomore Kas Hoag. With the Tradition, deFau won the Pony National Championships in 1998 and 1999, leading the team in batting average with a .453 mark.

HEAD COACH LIZ MILLER: Notre Dame head coach Liz Miller begins her eighth season at Notre Dame (276-277) and her 25th season overall (817-277). Miller directed the Irish to three BIG EAST South Division titles from 1996-98, while the team went undefeated in capturing both the BIG EAST regular season and conference championships in 1999.

Before being hired at Notre Dame, Miller was the head softball coach at Lake Michigan College where she amassed a 541-142 record in 17 seasons.

Div. I Preseason Poll


Rank Team (1st Pl. Vts.) Points Rec.
1. UCLA (25) 673 63-6
2. Washington (1) 638 51-18
3. Fresno St. (1) 602 65-10
4. Arizona 587 53-16
5. S. Mississippi 518 52-9
6. Michigan 475 51-13-1
7. LSU 451 56-10
8. Oklahoma 434 40-16
9. Arizona St. 408 41-29
10. Louisiana-Lafayette 399 54-11
11. Oregon St. 369 47-25
12. California 315 51-22
13. Nebraska 294 35-21
14. DePaul 281 54-14
15. Long Beach St. 280 34-21
16. Massachusetts 230 43-10
17. Michigan St. 217 41-23
18. South Carolina 198 49-21
19. Texas 188 45-17
20. Hawai’i 178 35-23
21. Stanford 158 40-25
22. Illinois-Chicago 149 67-17
23. Central Michigan 116 41-18
24. Missouri 98 41-21
25. Iowa 80 41-26-1

Others Receiving Votes: Cal St. Fullerton (64), Maryland (55), Hofstra (47), Oregon (41), Alabama (35), Pacific (33), Texas Tech (24), Texas A&M (18), Virginia Tech (18), Boston College (16), Minnesota (16), Florida Atlantic (15), South Florida (13), Florida St. (12), Kansas (11), New Mexico (7), Arkansas (5), Mississippi St. (4), Penn St. (3), Cal St. Northridge (1), Notre Dame (1).

Irish vs. This Weekend’s Opponents

Portland State: First Meeting
Southern Utah: First Meeting
Oregon: 1-1
1996 – W, 9-2
1993 – L, 2-5
UCSB: 0-1
1999 – L, 2-6
Utah: First Meeting

2000 Notre Dame Tentative Defensive Starting Lineup
Pitchers – Jennifer Sharron, Jr. (LHP), Michelle Moschel, So. (RHP)
Catcher – Jarrah Myers, So.
First Base – Andrea Loman, Fr.
Second Base – Alexis Madrid, Fr.
Third Base – Andria Bledsoe, Fr.
Shortstop – Melanie Alkire, Jr.
Left field – Lizzy Lemire, Jr.
Center field – Danielle Klayman, Jr.
Right field – Jenny Kriech, So.