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Softball Hopes For Strong BIG EAST Conference Start This Weekend

March 31, 2004

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Notre Dame at Western Michigan (DH), Thursday, April 1, 3 p.m.

Notre Dame vs. Connecticut (DH), Friday, April 2, 4 p.m.

Notre Dame vs. Boston College (DH), Sunday, April 4, 11 a.m.

Irish Quick Facts:

* Notre Dame takes its eight-game win streak on the road to Western Michigan on Thursday, followed by BIG EAST action at home over the weekend.

* The Irish have given up just five runs in the last eight victories, including posting shutouts in five of those contests.

* The doubleheaders at Ivy Field vs. UConn (Friday) and Boston College (Sunday) mark the first BIG EAST Conference action of the season for the Irish.

Irish hoping to start strong in the BIG EAST:

The 2004 season take a different turn this weekend, as the University of Notre Dame softball team (23-9) begins to focus on conference play. The Irish will play host to Connecticut (13-12, 1-1) on Friday at 4 p.m., followed by two more games with Boston College (19-12, 1-1) on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Notre Dame will not overlook Western Michigan (10-15) on Thursday, as they head to Kalamazoo for a make up date.

Last week:

Notre Dame defeated Valparaiso 9-0 in six innings on Tuesday, April 23. The Irish then made the trip to Bloomington, Ind., for the Hoosier Invitational, defeating Saint Louis (4-3), Indiana (4-0) and Western Kentucky (2-1) during the two-day event to earn the tournament title. Notre Dame’s single game match up with Loyola (Chicago) on Thursday, March 25 was rained out and will not be replayed this season.

Weekend opponents:

Here is a look at Notre Dame’s opponents this weekend:

Western Michigan: The Irish and Broncos will be meeting for the 18th and 19th time on Thursday, with Notre Dame leading the all-time series 13-4. This game is a reschedule, after the previous date on March 21 was cancelled due to inclement weather.

The Broncos are 10-15 this season and 0-2 in the MAC. Jaymie Voss is leading the offense with a .300 average, while Stefanie Schuemann has the top RBI total with eight. The Irish should see Laura Stewart (7-7, 2.15 ERA) and Tricia Vanderslik (3-3, 3.85 ERA) in the pitching circle. Notre Dame swept a doubleheader at Western Michigan last season with 8-5 and 8-0 victories.

Connecticut: The Irish and Huskies will be meeting for the 26th and 27th time on Friday afternoon. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 18-7, but the teams split their 2003 meeting at Connecticut (2-1 UConn win, 6-3 Irish victory). Connecticut’s seven victories against Notre Dame are the most by a BIG EAST opponent vs. the Irish.

The Huskies are 13-12 in 2004 and 1-1 in the BIG EAST after splitting with Virginia Tech last weekend. UConn also has won 11 of its last 12 games as of March 31. The offense is led by Suzy de Bary’s .371 average, while Maggie Arbogast has 16 RBI. The pitching staff features Jessica Gurney (9-6, 2.63 ERA) and Michelle Caouette (3-5, 3.43 ERA). UConn is 2-8 at Ivy Field.

Boston College: The Irish and Eagles will be meeting for the 19th and 20th time on Sunday. Boston College will face Syracuse on Friday before arriving on campus for Sunday’s doubleheader. BC is 19-12 this season and 1-1 in the BIG EAST (split with Virginia Tech last week). Jacqui Goodchild is the hitter to keep off the bases, as she is hitting .302 this season with 20 runs scored and 10 RBI. Tekae Malandris returns in the circle for BC and she has posted a 6-3 record and 1.31 ERA so far this season. Malandris was a second team all-conference selection last season.

The Irish and Eagles met just once last season with first place in the conference on the line. Notre Dame came away with an 11-0 victory in Chestnut Hill.

Booth takes her game to another level:

Sophomore Heather Booth is following up her BIG EAST rookie of the year performance in 2003 with an even more impressive campaign in 2004. The staff ace for the Irish, Booth currently boasts a 1.13 ERA, 12-3 record and 122 strikeouts in 117.1 innings pitched. The Riverside, Calif., native is already threatening her 158 strikeout season-best total from last season.

Booth won 21 games in 2003 and has earned 12 wins so far in ’04. She has been at her best against top competition, posting wins over Nebraska (twice), CS Fullerton (eight-innings, 11 strikeouts), while also throwing very well against Florida State (four runs allowed over 9.2 innings). Her 14 complete games are a single-season best for the Riverside, Calif., native – surpassing the 13 she had during her rookie season and her four shutouts surpass the three she posted last year.

In the month of March, Booth has posted a 7-2 record, 0.75 ERA, eight complete games in nine appearances, four shutouts and 69 Ks in 65.1 IP. Booth has allowed just 36 hits in those 65.1 IP.

Road warriors:

With two more games on the road Thursday at Western Michigan, Notre Dame will play an amazing 32 of its first 34 games away from Ivy Field. To play softball for the Irish means taking on a unique challenge of crisscrossing the country to face the best teams in the nation. So far in 2004, Notre Dame has faced 10 teams who were currently ranked – or have since been ranked – in the national top 25. After the Western Michigan doubleheader on Thursday, Notre Dame’s next eight games will be played at Ivy Field.

At the halfway point, Irish among the best ever:

Notre Dame has won 23 of its first 32 games (.719) to quietly post the second-best record over that same stretch since the program began in 1989. The 2001 team will arguably never be caught, as the Irish won 29 of their first 32 games that year. The 2000 squad is the team the Irish have matched for the second-best record in the first 32 games of the season, as that team was 23-9 on March 31. The ’00 team also won its next nine games – meaning the Irish have quite a challenge on their hands as they look to post one of the best single season records in school history.

Look out for Lenn:

After suffering through a long hitting drought earlier this season, sophomore catcher Mallorie Lenn is starting to see her batting average rise back to respectability.

While her season average is still at .222, Lenn has 16 hits this month in 52 at bats for a .308 average. A second-team all-BIG EAST selection a year ago, Lenn seems to be finding her swing at just the right time for the Irish.

Beware the Ides of March?

The Shakespearean warning held true for Julius Caesar, but not for the Notre Dame softball team. Notre Dame is 13-5 this month and enter Thursday’s doubleheader with a eight-game winning streak.

Megan Ciolli (.414), Meagan Ruthrauff (.404), Stephanie Brown (.323) and Mallorie Lenn (.308) have all debunked the Soothsayer’s warning by hitting over .300 this month. Ruthrauff has contributed a team-high 20 RBI in the 18 games, while Liz Hartmann has provided 11 RBI.

The Notre Dame pitching staff ERA has posted equally impressive numbers this month, as the staff has complied a 1.30 ERA. Booth leads the way at 0.75 (7-2), followed by Carrie Wisen (3.89, 1-0) and Steffany Stenglein (1.56, 5-3).

Ruthrauff earns second BIG EAST weekly award of the season:

Sophomore Meagan Ruthrauff was one of the main reasons the Irish finished last week with a perfect 4-0 record and outscored their opponents 19-4. Ruthrauff was close to unstoppable at the plate, going seven for 12 (.583) with three home runs and 10 RBI in four games. She contributed the game-winning hits in three of the four victories and slammed two three-run home runs last week. She was previously named the BIG EAST player of the week on March 1 this season.

Stenglein nabs first BIG EAST weekly honors since the 2002 season: Junior Steffany Stenglein’s week was highlighted by her second career perfect game at Valparaiso on Tuesday, March 23. In a six-inning 9-0 victory over the Crusaders, she struck out a career-high 14 batters and did not allow a ball out of the infield. The performance was the second no-hitter of her career against Valpo (she combined with Carrie Wisen for a no-no in 2002) and her previous perfect game came vs. Virginia Tech – also during the 2002 season. The weekly award is the third of her career and first since ’02, when she claimed honors on back-to-back weeks (April 15 and 22).

Stenglein also threw seven scoreless innings vs. Saint Louis at the Hoosier Invitational over the weekend, picking up her eighth victory of the season. She ended up with 22 strikeouts in 13.0 innings pitched last week.

Notre Dame matchup with #20/21 Nebraska on April 12 to be shown nationally on CSTV:

The University of Notre Dame will travel to Lincoln, Neb., to face the Cornhuskers for the third time this season – and College Sports Television (CSTV) will televise the game live across the country. The contest on Monday, April 12, will be part of CSTV Softball, which will show eight regular-season games this season, in addition to the Big Ten and Conference USA post season tournaments.

In addition to its softball telecasts, College Sports TV will cover the sport extensively within its CSTV Primetime and CSTV Scoreboard live studio shows originating from the CSTV Fieldhouse in New York. Daily coverage of women’s softball will also be found on

CSTV, the first 24-hour college sports network, is available to more than 15 million homes nationally on cable and satellite. The network is available on Time Warner, Adelphia and Insight cable systems, among others, and is also available on DirecTV (channel 610). For information on CSTV availability in particular markets, consumers can log on to or call their cable or satellite operator.

Homers in the clutch:

The Deanna Gumpf era at Notre Dame has provided some of the most memorable clutch home runs in Irish history. Over the past three seasons, Notre Dame has claimed an upset victory on the road (vs. #4 Nebraska, 2002), an amazing comeback victory on the road (vs. La.-Lafayette, 2003), a BIG EAST Championship (vs. Villanova, 2003) and two first-weekend come-from-behind victories (at the UNLV Classic this season) via dramatic home runs.

Liz Hartmann has played a role in three of the memorable moments. In 2002, her three-run blast in the top of the seventh pushed Notre Dame to a 3-2 victory over #4 Nebraska at the Cornhuskers’ dedication of their new field in Lincoln. Last season, Hartmann tied the school record for home runs in a single game with two shots vs. La.-Lafayette. Her first against the Lady Cajuns tied up the game in the seventh inning (after Notre Dame had rallied from a 5-1 deficit) and then ended the game in the ninth inning on a three-run round tripper.

Hartmann hit yet another game winning home run vs. Saint Louis last weekend at the Hoosier Invitational, launching a solo shot in the sixth inning to provide the winning margin (4-3 victory).

The 2003 BIG EAST Championship was claimed on a walk off home run by ’03 graduate Andrea Loman, who smashed a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth.

During the UNLV Classic on the first weekend of competition for the Irish this season, the team utilized four clutch home runs to secure two victories. Sophomore Kellie Middleton launched a two-run shot to complete Notre Dame’s rally from a 7-4 deficit to defeat Hawaii 8-7. The next day, freshman Stephanie Brown completed another Irish rally with a two-run shot in the top of the seventh vs. #8/8 Nebraska – followed by another two-run shot by Hartmann to claim the winning margin. Hartmann had previously cut the Cornhusker lead down to 4-2 with a two-run homer in the fifth.

Notre Dame has faced a loaded early season schedule:

In what has developed into a yearly tradition for the Fighting Irish softball team, Notre Dame hit the road for the first five weekends of the season to face several of the top teams in the nation. According to the latest national polls, over the first five weekends of the season Notre Dame faced 10 ranked teams ( Softball ranking first, followed by USA Today/NFCA):

* #2/3 California (L, 1-2) – now ranked #3/3

* #6/6 Georgia, (L, 1-7) – now ranked #5/6

* #11/12 Michigan (L, 0-3) – now ranked #9/10

* #8/8 Nebraska (W, 6-4), now ranked #21/20

* #14/14 Nebraska (W, 1-0), now ranked #21/20

* #8/8 Stanford (L, 2-4), now ranked #11/9

*#24/24 CS Fullerton (W, 5-4), now unranked

* #4/6 Florida State (L, 3-4 – 10 innings), now ranked #4/4

* NR Pacific (L, 1-12), now ranked #20/19

* NR Georgia Tech (W, 2-1), now ranked #25/23

The Irish also will take on DePaul and Northwestern later this season, as both teams have earned votes in the top 25 this season. In addition, Texas A&M, Florida Atlantic and Hawaii have all received votes for the national polls this season.

While a tough schedule might affect Notre Dame’s early season record, it has paid huge dividends over the last two years when the Irish return to the Midwest for conference and regional play. The 2002 season saw Notre Dame open up 8-12 while facing eight ranked teams in the first two months of the season. Notre Dame responded by winning 34 of its next 37 games and the BIG EAST Championship entering the NCAA regional. The 2003 season followed a similar pattern, as Notre Dame found itself facing six ranked teams and holding a 10-10 record on March 14. The Irish bounced back with a 20-game win streak and 26 wins in their last 30 games entering the NCAA regional.

Head coach Deanna Gumpf:

The 2004 season marks Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf’s third at the helm of the Irish softball program. Her 82 wins over the first two seasons are the most in school history (Liz Miller had 77 while Brian Boulac posted 61) and she has guided the team to set school records for home runs, RBI and fielding percentage over the last two seasons.

Gumpf’s record at Notre Dame stands at 105-43 (.709) entering this weekend’s action and her teams have captured back-to-back BIG EAST titles and NCAA regional appearances.

The 2004 season will feature Gumpf’s distinctive stamp on the program. The graduation of four starters in the infield gives the opportunity for the Irish starting lineup to feature five players from Gumpf’s first two recruiting classes at Notre Dame.

Megan Ciolli named to USA Softball Player of the Year watch list:

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and USA Softball have announced their initial watch list for the third-annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award and Notre Dame junior Megan Ciolli (Terre Haute, Ind.) was one of the 40 players to make the list.

Ciolli will embrace a new role as team leader for the Irish this season, which begins next weekend (Feb. 13) at the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. The Irish have radically shifted from a senior laden team to one of the youngest squads in the Midwest.

A starter since she arrived on campus three years ago, Ciolli boasts a .350 career average – hitting either first or second in the Irish line up. A three-tool player able to bunt, slap and hit for power, the junior boasts 131 hits in her career, eight home runs and 48 RBI. She also has stolen 23 bases in her career and her .350 career average puts her in the top five all-time at Notre Dame.

So far in 2004, Ciolli has paced the Irish offense with a team-high 42 hits (.414 average), 14 stolen bases (in 15 attempts) and has contributed four outfield assists.

Notre Dame picked to win its third-straight BIG EAST title:

Notre Dame has been picked to finish first in the BIG EAST Conference for the 2004 season, as voted on by the league coaches and released by the conference office. The Irish garnered seven of 11 first place votes and 95 total points in the poll, followed by Villanova (83 points) and Boston College (74).

Notre Dame won a share of the BIG EAST regular-season crown for the seventh-straight season last year, finishing the conference schedule with a 14-3 record. Led by conference player of the year Andrea Loman, Notre Dame swept through the BIG EAST Championship, scoring 21 runs in three games and earning the title on a walk off home run by Loman in the ninth inning against Villanova.

2004 BIG EAST Preseason Softball Coaches Poll

1. Notre Dame, 95 points

2. Villanova, 83 points

3. Boston College, 74 points

4. Seton Hall, 70 points

5. St. John’s, 55 points

Virginia Tech, 55 points

7. Syracuse, 50 points

8. Connecticut, 49 points

9. Rutgers, 43 points

10. Pittsburgh, 20 points

11. Providence, 12 points

Keeping up with the Irish on the road:

A complete recap, plus game boxscore, will be posted on as soon as possible upon completion of Notre Dame’s scheduled games for the day (although during preseason tournament action, the schedule might allow for game-by-game updates). The Notre Dame softball hotline will also be updated as soon as possible after each game, that line can be reached by calling (574) 631-3000, press 4, then 2.

BIG EAST Championship switched to Syracuse, N.Y. for 2004:

The 2004 BIG EAST Championship will be hosted by Syracuse University this season. During the previous two seasons, the BIG EAST Championship was held in Roanoke, Va., but a schedule change in the Division II National Championship (hosted by the city of Roanoke) dictated a return to campus sites for the BIG EAST Championship. The conference title will be on the line during play beginning Thursday, May 13 and continues until Saturday, May 15, with a raindate on Sunday, May 16.