Feb. 26, 2003
2003 Louisiana Classic
Lafayette, La. * Feb. 28 – March 2 * Lady Cajun Park
Notre Dame vs. Northwestern State, Friday, Feb. 28, 11:45 a.m.
Notre Dame at Louisiana-Lafayette, Friday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m.
Notre Dame vs. McNeese State, Saturday, March 1, 4:15 p.m.
Notre Dame at Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday, March 1, 6:30 p.m.
Notre Dame vs. Northwestern State, Saturday, March 2, 11 a.m.
Irish face quick turn around to Louisiana this weekend:
It has been a tough start to the 2003 season for the Notre Dame softball team (3-4) and Mother Nature has not cooperated at its previous two tournament stops. The Irish have lost at least three games to inclement weather this season already.
Notre Dame is focused to make this weekend’s visit to Louisiana-Lafayette for the Louisiana Classic a success (weather permitting). The team is eager to get more games in this season and is improving with each inning. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-1), Northwestern State (0-7) and McNeese State (0-7) join Notre Dame in the tournament field.
Series history vs. Northwestern State and game preview:
2002 Southland Conference winner Northwestern State and Notre Dame will be meeting for the first time. The Demons have appeared in three of the last five NCAA Championships and have been picked to contend for the conference title again in 2003. The team is 0-7 on the season.
Northwestern State is led on offense by Nicole Martin (.348 avg.), who has two triples and three RBI this season. Three pitchers have split the innings for the Demons this season, but Amanda Ortego has 22 strike outs in 19.1 IP. Northwestern State has faced Southern Mississippi (twice), LSU (twice) and SW Texas State (three times) so far this season.
Series history vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and game preview:
The Irish and the Lady Cajuns will be meeting for the third and fourth time this weekend, with the last meeting occurring last year at the Aggie Invitational in College Station, Texas. ULL walked away with a 6-3 victory in that match up. Notre Dame won the first meeting between the two teams in 2000 at the Kia Klassic (4-2).
ULL is a hard-hitting squad, already putting up seven home runs this season. Their individual offensive leader is Danyele Gomez, with two home runs, seven RBI and a .474 batting average. Brooke Mitchell has logged the most innings the Lady Cajuns this season, going 4-1 with a 0.25 ERA and 49 strike outs in 28.1 innings.
Series history vs. McNeese State and game preview:
Notre Dame and McNeese State will be meeting for the first time this weekend. The Cowgirls compete in the Southland Conference and have a 0-7 record this season. McNeese State’s offensive star this year is Beth Jordan, hitting .350 with seven hits and two RBI. The pitching staff is anchored by Jessica Denham, who boasts a 1.33 ERA in five appearances.
New national poll debuts this week:
USA Softball, in conjuncture with ESPN.com and the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) have formed a new national poll. Click on the link above for the PDF version of this weekly release, which contains both national polls on page seven.
Freshman pitcher Heather Booth making her mark early in the season:
The winning pitcher in all three Irish victories this season, freshman Heather Booth has stepped up as a dependable starter for Notre Dame this season.
Booth has appeared in five of Notre Dame’s seven games this season and her first action – against South Florida in the first game of the year – ended up in a loss after she gave up a run over 1.1 innings.
The Riverside, Calif., native came right back in the next game, however, picking up a victory against Kent State with 5.0 IP, four hits and one run with three strike outs. She also won against Jacksonville and pitched a gem against Illinois State, going all eight innings of the extra-inning affair with two hits and eight strike outs.
So far, Booth has a 2.17 ERA with 22 strike outs in 19.1 IP.
Ruthrauff pacing the Irish offense so far in 2003:
Freshman designated player/first base Meagan Ruthrauff has made a quick transition to the college game this season. The rookie from La Mirada, Calif., leads the team with nine hits (.429 avg.) and has steadily moved up the Irish batting order. She is tied for the team lead in RBI (four) and boasts a .524 slugging percentage with two doubles. She has seen limited time at first base in relief of starter Lisa Mattison.
Weather wreaks havoc during the NFCA Leadoff Classic:
Typically one of the best tournaments in the nation with loads of talented teams competing against each other, the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic turned into a four-day weather delayed experience. Notre Dame spent four days in the Columbus, Ga., area and was only able to get in three games (the Irish were originally scheduled to play at least five games).
The Leadoff Classic was set up with 24 teams and six pools with four teams in each pool. Depending on your performance in the three games against your pool, teams would eventually be designated to a bracket to play at least two more games.
Notre Dame arrived in Columbus Thursday evening and worked in a short practice Friday morning. The rain moved in about two hours before Notre Dame’s first scheduled game against #4 California. All the games on Friday were pushed back to Saturday.
Attempting to get back on track, the tournament organizers determined that each team would play three games on Saturday to complete the pool games. Originally, the Irish were to play at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
A wicked thunderstorm ripped through the Columbus area early Saturday morning, however, and pushed the start times for Saturday back to 2 p.m. A coaches meeting was held and it was determined that the participating teams would finish up pool play before calling and end to the tournament.
Notre Dame finally got on the field to compete at about 5 p.m. on Saturday against California. After the 6-0 loss to the Bears, Notre Dame stayed on the same field to take on Illinois State. Defense and the two opposing pitchers dominated the game and both teams would manage just two hits a piece before it started raining again. The teams sat through one 25-minute rain delay before the tournament organizers decided to send the teams home and start over again on Sunday at 10 a.m. The Notre Dame – Illinois State game was suspended in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Notre Dame came back the next morning to defeat Illinois State in eight innings. They eventually played #17 Alabama later in the day before heading back to South Bend.
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).
Middleton steps in as the starting centerfielder:
Freshman Kellie Middleton started every game last weekend in center field for the Irish. Middleton, one of the best all-around athletes on the team, has fared well in her limited defensive chances this year. In fact, the Norcross, Ga., native threw out a runner attempting to score from third in her first career defensive chance during the USF/Wilson Tournament in Tampa, Fla, two weeks ago.
Middleton’s first career hit was a memorable occurrence as well. She hit a three-run home run against Hofstra and, combined with an RBI ground out against Alabama last weekend, is tied for the team lead in RBI with four.
She is almost an automatic threat to steal, as the rookie is 3-3 in base stealing attempts this season.
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, is this weekend’s destination for a tournament hosted by the Lady Cajuns and the Irish will head to 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 .273 (six hits in 22 AB) with one home run and two RBI. She also has stolen two 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 to the Bayou the this weekend for a tournament at Louisiana-Lafayette before going west to the 2003 Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif. in two weeks. 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 late April.
Looking for Notre Dame livestats?
Live statistics will be available for all Notre Dame home games this season. An effort is being launched to do some of Notre Dame’s preseason away games, but it will be dependent on phone line availability at the various fields/complexes/stadiums. No live statistics will be available for this weekend’s tournament. Fans can call 574-631-3000 for the Notre Dame sports information hotline, which will be updated as soon as possible after the games this weekend.