March 19, 2003
Notre Dame at Western Michigan, Doubleheader
Sunday, March 23, 12 noon & 2 p.m.
Fran Ebert Field * Kalamazoo, Mich.
Irish begin second part of the season in Kalamazoo on Sunday:
The University of Notre Dame softball team (8-9) returns to the Midwest this weekend to begin the second part of its season. The Irish have completed their preseason tournament schedule with an 8-9 record and will now focus on regional matchups and the BIG EAST Conference schedule. Notre Dame will take on Western Michigan Sunday in Kalamazoo with a doubleheader at 12 noon and 2 p.m.
Series history vs. Western Michigan and doubleheader preview:
Notre Dame and Western Michigan will be meeting for the 16th and 17th time on Sunday. The Irish lead the all-time series 11-4 and have won four in a row over the Broncos. The last meeting occurred in 2001, an 8-0 victory by the Irish at Ivy Field.
Western Michigan is 8-9 this season and boast wins over Illinois and Virginia Tech. The Broncos are hitting a solid .302 as a team, led by Kelly Barnett (.413 avg., 10 RBI) and Mario McCarthy (.320 avg., 13 RBI). Their pitching staff is led by Leah Seffernick (6-2, 2.58 ERA), but five different pitchers have seen action this season.
Notre Dame hopes to kick start during the next several weeks:
The Irish are hoping to follow the pattern established last season. Notre Dame returned from Spring Break last year with an 8-12 record, but rebounded to win 36 of its final 41 games and finish one game away from the Women’s College World Series. The Irish also won 14 games in a row after coming back to the Midwest after break in 2002.
This season, Notre Dame brings an 8-9 record into the second part of its season. The Irish begin BIG EAST Conference competition on Saturday, March 29, against Pittsburgh.
Irish hope team health returns:
Not only did the weather play havoc with last weekend’s Kia Klassic (cancelling the last two days of competition), but the Notre Dame team was struck by a strep throat virus last week as well. At one time, six Irish players were effected by the illness, and it forced first-team all-BIG EAST honorees Andrea Loman, Steffany Stenglein and Megan Ciolli out of the line up at different times.
The cancellation of the Kia Klassic tournament games allowed the team to get back early from the west coast and get in a full week of rest before taking on Western Michigan this Sunday.
Rookie DP Ruthrauff has been a steady offensive weapon:
Freshman DP Meagan Ruthrauff has been among the offensive leaders for Notre Dame since she first stepped on the field this season. Ruthrauff is currently second on the team in batting average (.327) with 18 hits in 55 AB. She leads the team in doubles with six and has drove in eight runs this season. She hit her first career home run at Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 28, kick-starting Notre Dame’s eventual 8-5 come-from-behind victory.
Notre Dame single-game home run record has even more company:
Notre Dame’s original single-game home run record was set in 1990 when Sheri Quinn hit two home runs against Loyola-Chicago. Since that day on March 24, 1990, the feat has been matched 14 times. Andria Bledsoe and Liz Hartmann hit two home runs each in Notre Dame’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 28. Hartmann was already a member of the record-holding club after hitting two bombs against Oakland in 2002.
In all, five current Notre Dame players are among the nine in school history who have hit two home runs in one game. Jarrah Myers (1999-2002) is the only Notre Dame player to hit two home runs in a game three times in her career – against Virginia Tech (4-30-02), Seton Hall (4-30-00) and CS Northridge (3-11-01).
New national poll:
USA Softball, in conjuncture with ESPN.com and the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) have formed a new national poll. See page seven of this notes package for both the ESPN/USA Softball poll and the USA Today/NFCA top 25.
Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf in her second season:
Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf led her team to a 44-17 record in 2002 – her first season as the program’s leader. A former assistant at Notre Dame and player at Nebraska (’92), Gumpf and her staff landed the BIG EAST Conference Coaching Staff of the Year award and shared the NFCA Mideast Region Coaching Staff of the Year award with Wisconsin last season.
Among Notre Dame’s many accomplishments in 2002, the Irish advanced to the final day of competition at the NCAA regionals for the second-consecutive season, won the BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles and set school records for home runs (54) and fielding percentage (.971).
Irish team strength lies in veteran infield:
There is no secret where the Notre Dame team strength lies this season. Three-year starters Andrea Loman (third base), Andria Bledsoe (short stop) and Alexis Madrid (second base) return to lead the team this season on offense, defense and as team tri-captains.
All three players have key roles in Notre Dame’s offensive numbers and defensive prowess. The Irish set a team record for fielding percentage in 2002 (.971) and committed just 50 errors on 1,678 chances. Notre Dame also hit a team-record 54 home runs in ’02.
Loman excels on offense and defense and is widely regarded as one of the best third basemen in the country.
The Riverside, Calif., native led the team with a .377 average last season, putting up 12 home runs, 43 RBI and 66 hits. She ranks in the top five all-time in Notre Dame history for fielding percentage.
Bledsoe is among the Irish leaders on offense and defense as well. The Higley, Ariz., native drove in 43 runs last year on 56 hits. She also hit a career-best seven home runs and was steady on defense, compiling a .970 fielding percentage.
Madrid dropped from hitting over .300 in 2001 to a .225 clip last season. She did steal 10 bases (third-best on the team) and contributed 95 assists on defense. One of the best sacrifice bunters and hitters on the Irish team, Madrid has already posted two sacrifice hits this season.
Notre Dame’s infield also features two-time first-team all-BIG EAST selection Lisa Mattison at first base. Mattison hit .325 in ’02 with 27 RBI and four home runs.
Two Irish players on player-of-the-year watch list:
The ASA has announced its initial watch list for the second annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
Notre Dame’s Andrea Loman and Megan Ciolli were among the 40 players on the watch list.
The award, which is considered the Heisman Trophy in women’s collegiate softball and is the only national player of the year award, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.
The initial watch list is comprised of 40 players that represent 23 college and 11 different collegiate conference. Even if a player doesn’t appear on the initial watch list, they are still eligible for the award. The first 25 finalists will be announced on May 13th, then down to 10 on April 29th and three on May 13th. The winner will be announced at the 2003 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Just a quick glance at the 2003 Notre Dame softball roster can beg the question; is the Notre Dame campus located on the west coast?
In all, 10 Irish players call California home – that is over 50% of the roster. Add in head coach Deanna Gumpf (La Palma) and the Notre Dame softball team has a distinctive Golden State flavor.
The California girls:
Steffany Stenglein (Huntington Beach), Carrie Wisen (Fullerton), Jessica Sharron (Agoura Hills), Liz Hartmann (Novato), Chantal DeAlcuaz (Modesto), Alexis Madrid (Temecula), Mallorie Lenn (Garden Grove), Heather Booth (Riverside), Andrea Loman (Riverside) and Meagan Ruthrauff (La Mirada).
Notre Dame preseason favorite to win the BIG EAST Conference:
The BIG EAST Conference has released its 2002 preseason softball poll and the University of Notre Dame softball team ended up as the top choice, as voted on by the league’s coaches, to win the 2003 league championship. The Irish received 99 points in the conference’s preseason release, ahead of Syracuse in second place (85) and Villanova (75) in third. Notre Dame received nine first-place votes, while Villanova and Virginia Tech each received one.
2002 BIG EAST Preseason Softball Poll
Rank, team, (first place votes), points, ’02 record
1. Notre Dame (9), 99 pts., 44-17
2. Syracuse, 85 pts., 25-21
3. Villanova (1), 75 pts., 45-15
4. Virginia Tech (1), 71 pts., 42-18
5. Seton Hall, 69 pts., 29-17
6. Boston College, 63 pts., 26-26
7. St. John’s, 36 pts., 23-30-1
8. Rutgers, 35 pts., 22-25
9. Connecticut, 31 pts., 5-15
10. Pittsburgh, 30 pts., 21-33
11. Providence, 11 pts., 5-15
Mallorie Lenn wins gold medal with the U.S. Junior National team:
Freshman Mallorie Lenn landed a spot on the U.S. Junior National team that eventually won the First Junior Women’s Pan American Championship in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Lenn, from Garden Grove, Calif., was one of the starting catchers on the U.S. team that did not surrender a single run during the tournament. The team was potent on offense as well, dispatching Netherlands Antilles 21-0, Guatemala 20-0 and Jamaica 20-0.
The U.S.’s main competition in the tournament was Canada, and in the first match up during round-robin play Lenn provided the game-winning RBI in her team’s 1-0 victory. Lenn also served as the catcher for the gold-medal game against Canada (a 2-0 U.S. victory).
The victory provided the USA with a berth in the 2003 International Softball Federation Junior Women’s World Championships in Nanjin, China, during the summer of 2003.
Entering the 2003 season, Notre Dame softball has posted 556 wins in 14 seasons (almost 40 wins per season). The Irish have won 67% of their games and have never posted a losing season.
February isn’t the best time to play softball in Northern Indiana, so the Notre Dame softball team hits the road exclusively during the first two months of the season to take on some of the best teams in the nation. In just the last five years, Notre Dame has visited Arizona, Georgia, California, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Nevada, Hawaii and Oklahoma in early-season tournament action. This year, the Irish have already visited Tampa, Fla., for the USF/Wilson Tournament and Columbus, Ga., for the NFCA Leadoff Classic, Lafayette, Louisiana for the Louisiana Classic and Fullerton, Calif., for the Kia Klassic.
Loman among the best at her position:
Already known as one of the best in the Midwest prior to the 2002 season, senior Andrea Loman finally earned national acclaim for her spectacular play at the end of Notre Dame’s ’02 campaign. Loman earned third-team NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-American accolades in addition to being named the BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player.
Loman is currently batting .333 (16 hits in 48 AB) with two home runs and nine RBI. She also has stolen four bases this season.
Loman excels both offensively and defensively for Notre Dame, driving in runs and taking away many players ability to drop a bunt down the third-base line. Loman’s .962 fielding percentage for the ’02 season is impressive by itself (219 chances) but six of her eight errors were committed after she broke a finger on her throwing hand in a doubleheader at Seton Hall. Her career fielding percentage stands at .981 entering the 2003 season.
Not just a power hitter, Loman is able to hit for average (.377 in ’02) and steal bases when she gets on (a team-high 16 stolen bases last season).
Irish will not back down from the best in the country:
In what has become an annual tradition for the Notre Dame softball team, the Irish will spend the first two month of the season crisscrossing the country and taking on the best teams in the nation.
Notre Dame began the year on Feb. 15, 16 and 17 at the USF/Wilson Tournament in Tampa, Fla., facing traditional power South Florida and several NCAA east regional teams, including Hofstra and Rhode Island. South Florida has recently debuted in the national top 25 at #24.
Three weeks ago Notre Dame was at the challenging NFCA Leadoff Classic taking on defending national champion #4 California, Illinois State and #17 Alabama. The Irish also went to the west coast for the 2003 Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif. Notre Dame faced Fresno State, #4 Nebraska and #13 DePaul at the Kia this year.
Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule also features the Cornhuskers and Blue Demons in April.