March 28, 2006
2006 Home Opener
Notre Dame (13-10) vs. Bowling Green (17-8)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006, 5:00 p.m., Ivy Field
2006 Ivy Field season begins with eight-game homestand, Bowling Green up first –
After playing its first 23 games of the season on the road, the University of Notre Dame softball team will make its 2006 Ivy Field debut on Wednesday, March 29, with a single game against Bowling Green. At the time of this release, the weather report called for sunny skies and 60-degree weather on Wednesday, hopefully giving the Irish a beautiful start to an eight-game homestand. The first 200 fans at Wednesday’s contest will receive a free Notre Dame softball wiffle ball bat.
This weekend, the Irish will welcome Connecticut (currently in first place in the BIG EAST standings) and Providence (currently in second place) to open BIG EAST Conference play.
Ivy Field audio coverage –
Every 2006 Notre Dame home softball game will feature live audio coverage on www.und.com (Fighting Irish All-Access subscription required). This week’s games will be called by assistant sports information director Alan Wasielewski and can be heard live on www.und.com.
Irish ALERT continues this weekend –
A joint effort between Centennial Wireless, Notre Dame Sports Properties and the Notre Dame Sports Information Office has made up-to-the-minute text messaging a reality this season. Notre Dame announced the Irish ALERT system, which will cover baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse this spring for a free trial.
Simply sign up for the service at www.und.com and your mobile device will receive score updates from each of the four sports throughout the 2006 season. The service also will provide periodical updates providing team schedules and special alerts when content is uploaded on www.und.com.
For softball, updates are sent when the weekly release is posted on www.und.com, when a schedule change pops up (delayed games, added games) and in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings of each Irish game.
Western Michigan recap –
Notre Dame swept its second of two doubleheaders this season with a 5-0 and 2-1 (8) victories at Western Michigan on Sunday, March 26. The Irish pitching staff proved to be the story in both games, as senior Heather Booth and junior Kenya Fuemmeler combined for the team’s first no-hitter of the year, blanking the Broncos in game one. Booth pitched four innings of the contest to earn her sixth victory of the season, while Fuemmeler’s three innings of work finished off the no-no.
Freshman Brittany Bargar followed up with an impressive performance in game two, holding the Broncos to three hits over 7.1 innings of work. Notre Dame scored two unearned runs in the top of the eighth inning and after a WMU solo home run in the bottom of the inning, Booth entered the game to record the final two outs and her second save of the season.
Offensive standouts for the Irish on Sunday included junior Stephanie Brown (three for four in game one) and freshman Alexandra Kotcheff in game two (three for four, game changing hit).
ND series history vs. Bowling Green –
The Notre Dame – Bowling Green series has been a highly competitive matchup since the teams first met back in 1991 … the Irish lead the all-time series 8-6 and have won six of the last seven meetings since 1993 … Bowling Green won five of the first seven meetings in the series history from 1991-92 … the Irish are 4-3 against Bowling Green at Ivy Field.
Bowling Green preview –
The Falcons are 17-8 in 2006 and 15-8 away from from the BGSU Softball Field (including 1-3 on opponent’s home field) … BGSU is riding a seven-game winning streak entering a Tuesday (March 28) evening matchup with defending National Champion Michigan … Bowling Green boasts a win over #13 Washington this season (3-1 on March 5 at the Compass Bank Invitational in Waco, Texas) and battled the Huskies in a one-run loss earlier in the tournament … the Falcons are led on offense by senior 3B Gina Rango, hitting .392 this season with four home runs, 17 RBI and five stolen bases … sophomore 1B/OF and lefthanded hitting Allison Vallas boasts a .338 batting average with 14 RBI … Notre Dame will most likely see senior Liz Vrabel in the pitching circle … Vrabel is 9-4 in 2006 with a 1.51 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 69.2 IP … freshman Hayley Wiemer also has seen significant pitching action this season (4-4, 1.21 ERA, 63.2 IP).
Notre Dame in home openers –
Notre Dame is 23-9 (.719) on its home opener date, which includes 15 doubleheaders … for specifically the first game played on its home field, Notre Dame is 14-3 all-time, with the losses coming in 1992 (to Bowling Green), 1997 (to Boston College) and 2003 (to #22 Northwestern).
Irish post first no-hitter of the 2006 season –
Senior Heather Booth and junior Kenya Fuemmeler combined for the program’s 35th no-hitter and first of the 2005 season on Sunday, March 26, in game one at Western Michigan … Booth began the contest and pitched the first four innings, working around three walks and striking out five … Fuemmeler, who has surpassed her career high for innings pitched this season, finished off the victory with three solid innings of work, forcing three fly ball outs and six ground balls … the no-hitter is the second combined of Booth’s career, as she worked with 2005 graduate Carrie Wisen on a five-inning perfect game March 30, 2005, at home against Valparaiso … that also was the most recent no-hitter posted by Notre Dame … it was the 35th no-hitter in Notre Dame history, 11th combined no-no and fifth of the Deanna Gumpf era (since 2002).
Notre Dame softball on the small screen –
The University of Notre Dame softball team will be featured three times on cable television this season, with a possible fourth appearance in the BIG EAST Championship. Notre Dame’s first appearance will be the first game of a doubleheader vs. DePaul on April 13. ESPNU will cover the first game of the doubleheader (4:00 p.m.) between the long-time regional rivals and new conference opponents.
ESPNU also will cover Notre Dame’s first visit to USF as a conference opponent, picking up the first game of that doubleheader on Saturday, April 29 (11:00 a.m.).
Comcast Local (check your local listings for affiliates) will tape delay Notre Dame’s contest vs. Ball State on Tuesday, April 11 at 5:00 p.m. Rebroadcast schedule is unknown at this time.
Finally, CSTV will broadcast the BIG EAST Championship final game from the Belleville Softball Complex in South Bend, Ind., on May 13 at 6 p.m. The winner of that contest will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
New BIG EAST Conference unveiled in 2006 –
The BIG EAST Conference expansion, which officially took place this fall, has garnered most of its attention in men’s basketball. The conference has quickly transformed into the top men’s basketball league in the country, but the effect that expansion will have on softball cannot be overlooked. The BIG EAST welcomes three traditional softball powers into the conference this season with the addition of DePaul, Louisville and South Florida. All three of the new teams will compete to end Notre Dame’s regular-season conference title streak which stands at 10 years entering the `06 campaign.
Combined with an already solid conference lineup, the BIG EAST is now arguably the top softball league east of the Mississippi River. With a new league alignment, the BIG EAST Championship – scheduled to be played in South Bend, Ind., beginning May 11 – will feature a new schedule. The top eight teams from the league standings will take part in a single-elimination, three-day tournament to determine the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Championship. The final game of that tournament will be shown live on CSTV.
Irish captains –
Notre Dame will feature four captains this season for just the second time in the program’s history. The senior class of Heather Booth, Mallorie Lenn, Meagan Ruthrauff and Sara Schoonaert will provide leadership both on and off the field for the team in 2006. The only other team to feature four captains was Notre Dame’s most successful team ever – the 2001 squad. Current Irish assistant coach Lizzy Lemire shared the captaincy that season with Melanie Alkire, Danielle Klayman and Jennifer Sharron. The Irish finished 54-7 in `01 and earned a number-one seed in the NCAA Championship.
Booth to continue climb up Notre Dame career charts –
Senior co-captain Heather Booth, a front-line starter for the Irish since she walked on campus four years ago, will continue her climb up the Irish career pitching charts this season. The single-season record holder for complete games (30 in `04), Booth’s current all-time statistical ranking include third in appearances (133), third in starts (109), fourth in wins (75), third in complete games (69), fourth in shutouts (23), third in innings pitched (726.1) and fourth in strikeouts (691).
See page six of this notes package for a complete listing of Notre Dame’s current players on several different all-time statistical rankings.
Season schedule has been/will be a challenge –
The 2006 season will prove a challenge for the Irish, as the team will face several teams ranked in the top 25, or just out of the national rankings.
According to the latest rankings, the Irish will face (NFCA rankings first, followed by USA Softball) #25/22 DePaul #18/16 Northwestern and #20/21 Louisville. Notre Dame has already faced #10/10 Arizona State (3-2 victory), #4/4 Texas (6-5 loss), #6/7 Alabama (4-3 loss), #14/12 Oregon State (5-0 loss) BYU (8-3 victory), who has been in and out of the national polls this season and #17/17 Nebraska (5-3, eight-inning loss).
Notre Dame knocked off four ranked teams durng the 2005 season. The Irish defeated #21 South Florida and #19 Florida on their first weekend of action (Feb. 12-13), then knocked off #5/6 Tennessee in its last game at the Palm Springs Classic. Notre Dame also defeated #15 Northwestern with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh on Tuesday, April 26, 2005.
Under head coach Deanna Gumpf, the Irish have knocked off at least three ranked teams in three of four seasons (#25 South Florida, #4 Nebraska, #15 Oregon State in `02; #8 Nebraska, #14 Nebraska, #18 Nebraska in `04). The Irish have defeated a total of 14 ranked teams during Gumpf’s tenure. The most ranked wins for the Irish came in 2001, when the team defeated eight teams ranked in the national top 25.
New coaching staff, new Gumpf Family addition –
Notre Dame unveiled its new coaching staff in a unique way this season. Lizzy Lemire, a 2001 Notre Dame graduate, has joined the staff and Kris Ganeff (Notre Dame `99) moves up into the first assistant role. The change came about with the decision of former Irish assistant coach Charmelle Green to take a job in Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Development Program.
The unusual twist to the story is that Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf missed Lemire’s official debut with the team. Gumpf and her husband John welcomed their second child, Tatum Elizabeth, on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Deanna has rejoined the team full time on the road for its Spring Break trip to Southern California.
To aid in the pitching staff’s development during Gumpf’s pregnancy, former Irish assistant coach and 1993 Penn State graduate Dawn Austin returned to the team as a volunteer assistant coach this season.
Ruthrauff reaches career walks record –
Senior 1B Meagan Ruthrauff, Notre Dame’s cleanup hitter the last three seasons, is not only a potent RBI producer (128 in three-plus years, tied for seventh on the all-time Notre Dame list), but she also has outstanding plate discipline.
Ruthrauff has drawn 92 walks during her career, surpassing matching Andrea Loman’s (2000-03) previous Notre Dame career record of 87.
Ruthrauff has already drawn 12 free passes this season and ranks one-two on the single-season walk list at Notre Dame. In 2004, she drew a record 36 base on balls and followed up with 31 walks in 2005.