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Softball Has Southern California On Its Mind

March 5, 2003

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vs. Cal State Northridge

Northridge, Calif. * Sunday, March 9 * 12 p.m./2 p.m.

Irish begin Spring Break with doubleheader at CS Northridge:

The University of Notre Dame softball team (6-6) is ready to head to the California coast for Spring Break and a chance to escape the wintry weather in South Bend, Ind. The Irish will begin the final phase of their early-season schedule on Sunday, March 9, with a doubleheader at Cal State Northridge. Notre Dame will stay in Southern California for the week and enter the 2003 Kia Klassic on Thursday, March 13.

With six inches of snow on the ground in South Bend on March 5, the trip not only provides the Notre Dame team with solid competition, but it also affords the opportunity to practice outside during the week.

Series history vs. CS Northridge and doubleheader preview:

The Matadors, a member of the Big West Conference, and the Irish will be meeting for the fourth and fifth time on Sunday. Notre Dame holds a 3-0 lead in the series, including a doubleheader sweep at #24 CS Northridge (5-1, 7-3) in 2001.

Northridge will enter Sunday’s games with an 11-9 record, boasting a victory over then-#4 Michigan. The Matadors also have faced #22 Alabama and #1 UCLA this season.

CSUN’s offense is paced by Christen Bedwell, who is hitting .419 this season with 26 hits, two home runs and eight RBI. Kia Fennell is the team leader in RBI with 14.

Notre Dame explodes for 10 home runs during the Louisiana Classic:

There is no secret why Notre Dame won three of its five games at the Louisiana Classic last weekend – the Irish offense showed what it is capable of accomplishing. Notre Dame hit .302 as a team during the tournament, pounding out 45 hits, 10 home runs and 27 RBI. Six different Irish players hit home runs (Andrea Loman, Nicole deFau, Andria Bledsoe, Liz Hartmann, Meagan Ruthrauff and Lisa Mattison), with Hartmann and Bledsoe both hitting three out of the park. The Irish have now hit 12 home runs this season after hitting 54 last season while setting the school record.

Andrea Loman named BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week:

Senior co-captain Andrea Loman was named co-BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday, March 3, after helping the Irish to a 3-2 record at the Louisiana Classic last weekend. It is the first weekly award Notre Dame (6-6) has earned this season. She shared the award with Connecticut’s Mandy Schettini.

Loman led the Irish with seven RBI during the tournament, hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette. She was eight for 16 at the plate with a team-high three doubles, along with two stolen bases and one home run. The Riverside, Calif., native is batting .368 on the season with a team-best nine RBI and four stolen bases. Loman also was named to the Louisiana Classic all-tournament team.

Louisiana Classic all-tournament team:

Four Notre Dame players were named the Louisiana Classic all-tournament team. Andrea Loman was joined by sophomore Liz Hartmann, junior Nicole deFau and senior Andria Bledsoe.

Hartmann contributed two of the team highlights from the weekend. In Notre Dame’s come-from-behind victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday, Feb. 28, she hit a solo home run to tie up the game in the bottom of the ninth. Hartmann eventually delivered the game-winning three-run blast in the ninth inning as well. She finished the tournament five of 16 at the plate with three home runs and five RBI.

deFau used five hits over the weekend to raise her season batting average to .400 – the best on the team so far in 2003. She also hit her second career home run during the tournament.

Bledsoe joined Hartmann as one of two Irish players to blast three home runs during the tournament. The senior short stop has been on an offensive tear lately, raising her batting average from .111 six games ago to a solid .306 mark as of Monday, March 3. During the Louisiana Classic, Bledsoe was six of 14 at the plate with seven runs scored, three home runs and five RBI.

The complete Louisiana Classic all-tournament team:

Becky McMurtry, ULL*

Michael Parrott, ULL

Andrea Loman, Notre Dame

Liz Hartmann, Notre Dame

Summar Lapeyrouse, ULL

Sarina Noack, NW State

Nicole deFau, Notre Dame

Danyele Gomez, ULL

Jill Robertson, ULL

Andria Bledsoe, Notre Dame

Tiffany Grayson, ULL

Nicole Martin, NW State

Lauren Castle, ULL

* – Most Outstanding Player

deFau leading the team in hitting:

Junior Nicole deFau, seeing the first significant action of her career this season, has stepped up to the challenge thus far. The Southington, Conn., native is currently hitting .400 with eight hits in 20 at-bats. She hit her second career home run in Notre Dame’s 5-3 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend and has two multi-hit games this season (3-3 vs. NW State and 2-3 vs. ULL). deFau has started eight of Notre Dame’s 11 games this season.

Bledsoe snaps out of slump with offensive explosion at the Louisiana Classic:

Senior co-captain and short stop Andria Bledsoe was one of the main reasons Notre Dame returned from Louisiana with a 6-6 record. Bledsoe hinted at breaking out of her early-season slump against #17 Alabama on Feb. 23, going three for four at the plate with an RBI. She continued that hot hitting last weekend at the Louisiana Classic, as she was six for 14 (.429) with three home runs and four RBI. The Higley, Ariz., native also scored seven runs during the tournament.

Bledsoe has raised her batting average from .111 just six games ago to a respectable .306 entering Sunday’s doubleheader.

Hartmann continues late-inning heroics:

Sophomore Liz Hartmann hammered a freshman school-record seven home runs last season, none more memorable than her three-run shot in the top of the seventh to down #4 Nebraska in Lincoln.

A text book clutch hitter, Hartmann rose to the occasion at last weekend’s tournament in Lafayette, La. Entering the bottom of the seventh and down by one run, Hartmann led off with a solo home run to tie the game. The teams eventually entered extra innings and Hartmann ended the game in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run home run.

Hartmann eventually earned all-tournament honors while chalking up five hits, three home runs and five RBI during the five games.

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 Friday, 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).

‘First-career’ accomplishments:

Two Notre Dame players recorded some memorable first-career hits last weekend. Freshman Meagan Ruthrauff drilled her first career home run in Friday’s come-from-behind victory at Louisiana-Lafayette to kick-start the Notre Dame rally. Ruthrauff has been among the team leaders in offense during the entire 2003 season and is currently hitting .368 with one home run and six RBI.

Junior catcher Chantal DeAlcuaz broke through for her first career hit in Notre Dame’s 6-1 victory over McNeese State on March 1. Along with her first hit, which was a single, DeAlcuaz collected her first career RBI, driving in Sara Schoonaert with Notre Dame’s fifth run of the game.

Not to be forgotten, freshman Sara Schoonaert saw her first career action at second base during the tournament and recorded her first career hit, an RBI double against NW State on Feb. 2.

New national poll:

USA Softball, in conjuncture with 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.

What happened to quick softball games?

Collegiate softball is an ever-evolving sport and it has become increasingly apparent that the games are more contested than ever, and are becoming longer than ever. The Irish have not played a game this season under two hours and the match ups at the NFCA Leadoff Classic finished in 2:15 (vs. California), 2:30 (vs. Illinois State) and 2:28 (vs. Alabama).

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.

California girls:

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.

All-Time Record:

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.

Road Warriors: 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 and Lafayette, Louisiana for the Louisiana Classic. This weekend’s destination will be Northridge, Calif., for a doubleheader against CSUN and the Irish will stay in Southern California for Spring Break and the 2003 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 .368 (14 hits in 38 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.

Last weekend Notre Dame was at the challenging NFCA Leadoff Classic taking on defending national champion #4 California, Illinois State and #17 Alabama. The Irish head west for the 2003 Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif. next weekend. Notre Dame will face Fresno State, #3 Nebraska and #14 DePaul at the Kia this year.

Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule also features the Cornhuskers and Blue Demons in April.