April 25, 1998

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In a battle between the top two teams in the BIG EAST South Division, Notre Dame’s softball team exploded for nine runs in the first inning of the first game en route to an 11-0 and 7-4 doubleheader sweep over visiting Villanova to clinch its third straight BIG EAST South Division title and spot in the BIG EAST championship, which will be held at Notre Dame May 2-3. Freshmen pitchers Jennifer Sharron and Melanie Alkire picked up the wins while senior Jenn Giampaolo went 5-7 with three RBI and four runs to lead the Irish. Notre Dame improves to 31-18 and 11-3 in the BIG EAST while Villanova falls to 34-16, 8-6 in the conference. The two teams will close out their three-game series on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., at Ivy Field.

After Sharron put the Wildcats down in order to open top half of the first inning of the first game, the Irish sent 12 hitters to the plate before Villanova recorded the second out. Notre Dame scored nine runs on eight hits, including two by Giampaolo, in the first inning. Freshman pinch hitter Sarah Kirkman broke open the inning with a two-run single for a 5-0 lead.

Villanova starting pitcher Brenda Roach left after facing four batters but returned eight batters later when Carrie Walpole failed to record an out. Roach, who fell to 9-3 with the loss, retired the first two batters to end the first inning when she returned to the game. Sharron pitched three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five batters to improve to 14-6 in the five-inning game. Kelly Nichols pitched the final two innings.

Each team scored a run in the first inning of the second game before Amy Laboe put the Irish up 3-1 with a two-out, two-run double to score Giampaolo and Danielle Klayman. Villanova came right back in the third inning when Megan O’Leary smacked a two-run double to knot the score at 3-3. Sarah Mathison regained the lead for the Irish with an RBI single in the fourth. Giampaolo, Laboe and Alkire each recorded an RBI in the fifth inning for a 7-3 Notre Dame advantage. Villanova rallied in the seventh with a run before leading the bases loaded to end the game.

Alkire improved to 7-1 with the win as she went four innings in relief of starter Angela Bessolo, who allowed three runs on four hits in three innings pitched. Alkire gave up three hits and on unearned run. Keri Stoller went four and two-thirds and was tagged for seven runs on nine hits for Villanova as she fell to 10-9. Walpole relived Stoller and closed out the Irish in the final one and a third innings.

The games pitted Villanova, the best hitting team in the BIG EAST with a .376 conference batting average entering the doubleheader, against Notre Dame with the top pitching staff in the conference with a 1.48 ERA. Villanova hit 10-49 (.204) for the day. Notre Dame extended its winning streak to 14 games with the wins, the longest streak since the Irish won 19 straight in 1996, a streak snapped by Villanova at Ivy Field. The Wildcats entered the day with an eight-game winning streak. Since starting the BIG EAST schedule 1-2, the Irish have gone 11-1 with an 8-0 BIG EAST record at Ivy Field, site of the 1998 BIG EAST championship. Defending champion Boston College will open the championship on Saturday, May 2, with a game against either Villanova or Rutgers at 10:00 a.m. Notre Dame will play either St. John’s or Providence at 12:00 p.m., followed by two more games on Saturday and two or three games on Sunday, May 3.

Game OneVillanova   000 00     0-3-0Notre Dame  900 2x   11-12-0Brenda Roach (LP 9-3), Carrie Walpole (1), Jennifer Cornelius (4) and Stacey Stack.  Jennifer Sharron (WP 14-6), Kelly Nichols (4) and Kris McCleary and Korrie Allen (5).  2B- Melanie Alkire (ND).
Game TwoVillanova 102 000 1 4-7-1Notre Dame 120 130 x 7-9-4Angela Bessolo, Melanie Alkire (4, WP 7-1) and Kris McCleary. Keri Stoller (LP 10-9), Carrie Walpole (5) and Stacey Stack. 2B- Megan O'Leary (VU), Giampaolo (ND), Amy Laboe (ND).