May 19, 1999

1999 NCAA Softball Regional – May 20-23
At Univ. of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
All time are Eastern Daylight Time

IRISH HEAD TO ANN ARBOR: For the third time in Notre Dame’s four NCAA Tournament appearances, the Irish will head to Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Region 6 Tournament, May 20-23.

Notre Dame enters as the fifth seed in one of eight, six-team regionals in the 1999 NCAA Women’s Softball Championship. The Irish (41-18) will face the number two seed Nebraska Cornhuskers (31-19) Thursday in the first game of the double elimination regional at 1:30 p.m. (EDT).

Notre Dame is making its fourth NCAA appearance overall and its first since 1996 after earning the automatic bid to the 48-team tournament by defeating Seton Hall, 5-1, in the BIG EAST Tournament championship last weekend. Joining Notre Dame and Nebraska are host and top seed Michigan (51-11-1), third seed Arizona State (37-25), fourth seed Central Michigan (41-16) and sixth seed Florida Atlantic (47-18).

May 20

Game One   - #1 Michigan vs. #6 Florida Atlantic (4 p.m.)Game Two   - #2 Nebraska vs. #5 Notre Dame (1:30 p.m.)Game Three - #3 Arizona State vs. #4 Central Michigan (11 a.m.)

May 21

Game Four - Loser  Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2Game Five - Winner Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3Game Six  - Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3

May 22-23 – TBA

NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: The Irish are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1996, when the team went 0-2 at the Region 2 Tournament in Ann Arbor. The previous season, in 1995, the second-seeded Irish advanced to its first and only regional final, falling to Michigan 15-6 after posting two wins over Illinois-Chicago (5-2, 8-5). In Notre Dame’s first appearance in 1994 at the Mideast Regional in Bloomington, Ind., the fourth seeded Irish defeated the top seed Indiana 4-1 in the opening game, but then suffered back-to-back losses to Illinois-Chicago (1-0) and Indiana (8-0). The Irish are 3-6 overall in NCAA regional games.

TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCE: Only two players on this year’s squad have prior NCAA experience. Senior Angela Bessolo (Lakewood, Calif.), as a freshman in 1996, was the pitcher of record in the team’s 3-0 loss to South Carolina. Bessolo, who gave up three unearned runs on just two hits, was joined in the lineup by starting catcher Kris McCleary (Westerville, Ohio), who went 0-for-2 against the Gamecocks. McCleary was also 0-for-2 in the team’s 9-3 loss to Central Michigan , while Bessolo pitched the final two innings giving up two runs on three hits. Senior Amy Laboe (Monroe, Mich.), who also was a freshman on the 1996 team, did not see any action in the two games.

IRISH WIN BIG EAST TOURNAMENT: Notre Dame won its first ever BIG EAST Championship by beating Seton Hall 5-1 at the University of Connecticut Softball Field in Storrs, Conn. With the win, the Irish became the second team in BIG EAST Conference history to go undefeated in both the regular season and championship with a perfect 19-0 record. Sophomore pitcher Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.), the two-time BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, also was honored as the tournament’s most outstanding player after picking up all three Irish wins and batting a team-high .565 (5-for-9) at the plate.

MORE BIG EAST TOURNEY NOTES: The Irish scored an average of six runs per game, the most by any team since Connecticut scored 5.8 runs per game in 1991 and they are also the first to beat all three tournament teams en route to the championship since 1990. Notre Dame’s BIG EAST Championship is the school’s sixth overall in 1999-98, tying the BIG EAST record for championships in a season, which was set back in the 1996-97 campaign.

NOTRE DAME SWEEPS BIG EAST PLAYER AWARDS: The Notre Dame softball team, which finished a perfect 16-0 in regular season play, swept the BIG EAST player awards at the conference’s annual banquet. Irish shortstop Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) was named player of the year, sophomore pitcher Jennifer Sharron picked up her second straight pitcher of the year award and freshman third baseman Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kan.) won the rookie of the year award. The three awards marked the first time that one school has swept all three player of the year awards since Connecticut, the only other team to go undefeated during the regular season, did so in 1992.

In addition to the three player awards, the Irish also had six players named to the BIG EAST first team, the most ever by any Notre Dame squad and the most for any school since Connecticut had eight selected in 1993. Making the 12-member first team this year for the Irish was Sharron (one of two unanimous selections), Alkire, catcher Kris McCleary, first baseman Amy Laboe and outfielders Jennifer Kriech (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.).

Notre Dame also had three other players honored at the banquet. Senior pitcher Angela Bessolo was the team’s lone representative on the BIG EAST second team, while Kriech and Myers, an unanimous choice, were both selected to the five-player BIG EAST all-rookie team.

SCOUTING THE FIELD: The Irish have played each of the five other teams in the regional before and are leading the all-time series against both Central Michigan (3-1) and Florida Atlantic (2-0), while posting a losing mark versus Nebraska (0-2), Michigan (3-4) and Arizona State (0-5).

SCOUTING THE CORNHUSKERS: The Irish and Cornhuskers will face each other for the second time this season and the third time overall with Nebraska having won both previous meetings. Nebraska defeated the Irish 6-0 to win the consolation finals of the National Invitational Tournament in Sunnyvale, Calif. on March 14.

The Cornhuskers are 31-19 overall this season, which includes wins over common opponents Maryland (3-1), Boston College (11-2), Texas Tech (1-0, 2-1) and Kansas (6-3, 1-0, 6-5). Under seventh-year head coach Rhonda Revelle, Nebraska is led offensively by Jennifer Lizama, who is batting .417 with 15 home runs, 60 hits and 48 runs. One the mound, both Jenny Voss and Leigh Ann Walker have handled the majority of the starting duties. Voss is 19-9 on the season with a 1.12 ERA and 24 complete games, while Walker is 10-7 with a 1.73 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 97 innings.

SPECIAL CONNECTION: Notre Dame assistant coach Deanna Mays-Gumpf will be facing her alma mater when the Irish take to the field against Nebraska on Thursday. Mays-Gumpf, a 1992 graduate, starred for the Cornhuskers from 1989-92 as both a pitcher and first baseman. She earned second-team all-BIG Eight Conference honors in 1991 and was a conference honorable mention pick in 1989 and 1990.

SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES: Michigan (51-11-1) enters the regional as the top seed and sixth overall in the 48-team NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines were ranked fifth in the nation in the May 12th USA Today/NFCA poll, but lost the BIG Ten title just last weekend at their home field, 3-2, against Minnesota.

Despite the loss, Michigan has posted impressive wins over Illinois-Chicago (2-1), South Carolina (8-0) and Oregon (7-3). The have also posted an impressive 11-0 record against common opponents with the Irish.

Under head coach Carol Hutchins, who is in her 15th season, senior Catherine Davie is leading the team in hitting with a .418 average, 87 hits, 64 runs, 22 doubles, 54 RBI and eight home runs. On the mound, Marie Barda is 22-3 with a 1.13 ERA, while Katie Eiland (12-3) and Jamie Gillies (17-5) make up the pitching rotation.

The Irish are 3-4 all-time against the Wolverines, including two NCAA tournament losses in 1995.

SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS: Arizona State, ranked 16th with a 37-25 record, will be the third seed at the regionals. The Sun Devils opened the season with a impressive 29-5 mark before the start of PAC-10 regular season play. The have wins over top 25 teams Massachusetts (7-3), Michigan (5-4), Oregon State (7-1, 3-0, 5-0), Fresno State (3-2), Texas (3-2), Washington (1-0), Stanford (6-0, 1-0), California (1-0, 4-0), Oregon (9-1). Offensively, three players are hitting over .300 including Erica Beach (.324), Erin Wardein (.312) and Nichole Thompson (.304). Thompson is a former high school teammate of Notre Dame outfielder Lizzy Lemire at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif. Tenth-year head coach Linda Wells’ starting pitching rotation includes Kristen Voak (20-13) and Beach (16-12). The Irish have yet to beat Arizona State in five opportunities with the most recent being a 5-2 loss last season at the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

SCOUTING THE CHIPPEWAS: Central Michigan, the Mid-American Conference Champion enters the regional as the fourth seed with a 41-16 overall record. The Chippewas, under coach Margo Junker, have scored wins over Hofstra, Penn State, Kansas, Virginia Tech and Michigan in 1999.

Central Michigan also has three players hitting over .300 including Eli Barnes, Becky Manson and Tina Kinney. Kinney is also one of her team’s leaders on the mound with a 17-5 record and a 1.04 ERA.

The last time the two teams faced-off, the Chippewas eliminated the Irish from the NCAA tournament with a 9-3 win at Ann Arbor in 1996.

SCOUTING THE OWLS: Florida Atlantic, the sixth seed, earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the Trans America Athletic Conference. The Owls are 47-18 overall and have posted wins over common opponents Maryland (3-2), Toledo (6-3, 5-3) and North Carolina (6-4).

Under head coach Joan Joyce, freshman Nicole Myers is first on the team in batting with a .373 average, 69 hits and 12 home runs. On the mound Chris Sutcliffe is 19-6 with a 1.74 ERA, while Nicole Myers is 22-8 with a 2.09 ERA and 188 strikeouts in a little over 200 innings pitched. The Irish are 2-0 all-time against the Owls with both victories coming in 1996 at the South Florida Classic (4-0) and the Seminole Invitational (4-2).

Tentative Defensive Starting Lineup

Pitcher       - Jennifer Sharron/Angela BessoloCatcher       - Kris McClearyFirst Base    - Amy LaboeSecond Base   - Rebecca EimenThird Base    - Jarrah MyersShortstop     - Melanie AlkireLeft Field    - Lizzy LemireCenter Field  - Danielle KlaymanRight Field   - Jennifer Kriech

USA Today/NFCA Poll

 May 12, 1999 R  School         1999 Record 1. UCLA (24)            53-5 2. Fresno State (1)     57-8 3. Arizona             45-13 4. USL                  51-9 5. Michigan           49-9-1 6. Washington          43-16 7. Louisiana State      50-8 8. So. Mississippi      48-6 9. Oklahoma            38-1210. Illinois-Chicago    62-1511. Texas               40-1512. Oregon State        42-2313. Massachusetts        41-814. South Carolina      46-1715. Stanford            41-2216. Arizona State       37-2217. California          42-1918. DePaul              45-1219. Oregon              39-2520. New Mexico          42-1221. Maryland            47-1922. Texas A&M           39-1823. Missouri            37-1624. Tennessee           42-2325. Virgina Tech        54-16

Others: South Florida, NOTRE DAME, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Hofstra, Minnesota, Hawai’i, Alabama, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Mississippi State, Iowa, Michigan State, Evansville, Pacific, Long Beach State, Northern Illinois, Troy State.

1999 Big East Players of the Week

March 8  - Megan O'Leary (Villanova)March 15 - Vickie Lamb (Seton Hall)March 22 - Mia Brickhouse (Villanova)March 29 - Amy Laboe (Notre Dame),           Natalie Denning (Seton Hall)April 6 -  Vickie Lamb (Seton Hall)April 12 - Juliette Brooks (Rutgers)April 19 - Vickie Lamb (Seton Hall),           Abbie Link (UCONN)April 26 - Vickie Lamb (Seton Hall),           Melanie Alkire (Notre Dame)May 3    - Kelly Crosson (Rutgers)

Big East Pitchers of the Week

March 8  - Kerri Stoller (Villanova)March 15 - Jenn Berghoff (Seton Hall)March 22 - Mary Dietz (B. College)           Carrie Walpole (Villanova)March 29 - Misty Beaver (Seton Hall)April 6  - Jennifer Sharron (ND), Megan Biddle (UCONN)April 12 - Mary Dietz (B. College)April 19 - Jen Berghoff (Seton Hall)April 26 - Angela Bessolo (ND),           Misty Beaver (Seton Hall)May 3   -  Jennifer Sharron (ND),           Mary Dietz (Boston College)

Big East Rookkie of the Week

March 8  - Molly Hanneman (Villanova)March 15 - Heather Garboden (Villanova)March 22 - Rhianna Rogers (Pittsburgh)March 29 - Jarrah Myers (Notre Dame)April 6  - Kim Jackson (Seton Hall)April 12 - Caryn Haskins (UCONN)April 19 - Kim Jackson (Seton Hall)April 26 - Rebecca Eimen (ND)May 3    - Jarrah Myers (Notre Dame)

NCAA Quotes from Liz Miller

On traveling to Michigan I was expecting to be at the Michigan regional. I would have been surprised if we were not sent there, but I also thought that we could have gone to UIC (Illinois-Chicago) if they were hosting.

On getting a number five seed I figured we would be either a five or six seed based on the regional rankings…The five seed doesn’t really bother me, because once you get into the tournament, where you’re ranked doesn’t mean anything. It’s all a matter of who’s playing well this weekend.

On playing Nebraska Nebraska’s a very good team, they’re very aggressive and they’ve played some good teams. When we lost to them 6-0 earlier this season, it was close up until the last innings when they got all of their runs. We did not play well the first time and we need to play better defense this time if we expect to win.

NCAA Regional Rankings

Michigan, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State, Minnesota, Central Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Northern Illinois, NOTRE DAME

UMass, Hofstra, Seton Hall, Boston College, Connecticut, Delaware, Cornell, Villanova, Boston U., Long Island

Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, Creighton, Illinois State

LSU, USL, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida State, Florida, Mississippi State

Fresno State, Hawai’i, CSUFullerton, Long Beach St., New Mexico, Pacific, SDSU

UCLA, Arizona,Washington, California, Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon, Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount


NOTRE DAME OPENS WITH GLADSTONES WIN: The Notre Dame softball team began its 1999 season with a bang, winning its first-ever early season tournament in the seven-year Liz Miller era at the Gladstones Tournament, in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 19-21.

The Irish kicked off the tournament by defeating host sixth-ranked South Florida, 2-0. The Bulls were the highest ranked opponent that the Irish have beaten since March 13, 1995 when the team beat fifth-ranked Cal State Fullerton 1-0.

Notre Dame went on to defeat Georgia Tech, Miami and Tennessee before losing to Kansas (1-0). Freshman Jarrah Myers was named MVP, while senior pitcher Angela Bessolo was the tourney’s most valuable pitcher.

IRISH GOING YARD: After hitting just four home runs in last season, the Irish set a new single-season school record with 29 so far in 1999. The 29 home runs beats the previous school record set in 1994 of 17.

Leading the way for the Irish has been sophomore Melanie Alkire, who has tallied 10 and is tied with Sara Hayes (1994) for the most home runs in a season. Notre Dame has also gotten home runs from five other players including catcher Kris McCleary, (7), first baseman Amy Laboe (4), third baseman Jarrah Myers (4), leftfielder Lizzy Lemire (3) and rightfielder Jenny Kriech (1).

Laboe’s third home run in 1999 back on April 10 against Rutgers gave this year’s squad the school record.

MILLER WINS HER 800TH: Notre Dame head coach Liz Miller, currently in her seventh season at Notre Dame, reached the 800-win plateau after the team’s 9-1 win over Rutgers, April 10.

Miller coached at Lake Michigan College for 17 seasons prior to coming to Notre Dame in 1993, compiling a record of 541-142.

With a mark of 275-133 at Notre Dame, Miller has a career record of 816-275.

The Bronson, Mich. native will be inducted into the NJCAA Athtletic Association Coaches Hall of Fame, Wednesday, May 19 in Hutchinson, Kan., at the Division I junior college national tournament.