May 21, 1999
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Notre Dame’s fifth-seeded and BIG EAST champion softball team (42-19) ended top-seeded and fifth-ranked Michigan’s (51-13-1) string of four consecutive NCAA Softball College World Series appearances by blanking the Wolverines 1-0 on Friday at Alumni Field. The Irish victory eliminates host and Big 10 regular-season champion Michigan from the double-elimination NCAA Region VI tournament and sets up a 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon game against the loser of Friday’s late game between Nebraska and Arizona State.
“Both teams were laying it on the line today,” said Irish head coach Liz Miller. “We thought it was going to an extremely emotional game, and it was. Both teams played their hearts out. It could have gone either way. We got a couple of key hits, which gave us confidence, especially for Jen on the mound. She was very strong on the mound. Her changeup was very effective today, and it was a very big difference for us. It really kept Michigan’s hitters off balance.”
“Yesterday we played really tight,” said Sharron. “We weren’t playing our game and before today’s game we came together as a squad and said that no matter what, we were going to have fun. We made an extra effort to help each other enjoy the game.”
The Irish and Wolverines played in the first elimination game after both teams suffered 2-0 losses on Friday. Second-seeded Nebraska blanked Notre Dame followed by sixth-seeded Florida Atlantic’s win over Michigan. The 1-0 Irish win on Friday then ended the Wolverine’s streak of World Series appearances, which began with a Michigan win over Notre Dame in the 1995 NCAA regional final.
“The bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” said Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins. “We didn’t get the hit we needed all weekend. We didn’t score a run all weekend. I have a lot of disappointed players. I told our pitchers after the game that they did their part but our offense didn’t.”
The Irish scored the only run they would need in the bottom of the fourth inning when sophomore Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.) doubled and came around to score on BIG EAST pitcher of the year Jennifer Sharron’s (Agoura Hills, Calif.) two-out single down the left field line. The single marked Sharron’s third game-winning RBI of the season, while Lemire, who finished 2-2 at the plate, scored her seventh game-winning run of 1999.
On the mound, Sharron limited Michigan to just three hits to improve to 20-9, becoming Notre Dame’s first 20-game winner since Terri Kobata went 24-4 in 1995. She held Michigan to just three for the shutout. The Wolverines had their best scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth inning when Pam Kosanke stole third but then was tagged out by Irish thirdbaseman and BIG EAST rookie of the year Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kan.) trying to advance home.
Michigan also had a runner in scoring position on second base with two outs in the top of the seventh before Sharron struck out Wolverine leadoff hitter Traci Conrad to end the game. Jamie Gillies took to the loss for Michigan and fell to 17-6.
For the Irish, who are making their first NCAA appearance since 1996, the win marked their first over Michigan since February of 1995 and evened the all-time series at 4-4. The Wolverines held a 2-0 advantage in NCAA play over Notre Dame heading into today’s game. Michigan defeated the Irish twice in 1995, including a 15-6 win in the regional final to advance to its first World Series before Notre Dame ended the streak today.