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Softball Lands Two More BIG EAST Weekly Awards

April 26, 2004

The University of Notre Dame softball team, fresh off a dominating weekend during which the Irish assumed first place in the BIG EAST Conference, was rewarded for its outstanding week with two conference player of the week awards on Monday, April 26.

Senior Nicole deFau, who hit a blistering .588 in five games last week, was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week for the first time in her career. Junior Steffany Stenglein was named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season (sharing the award with Boston College’s Tekae Malandris).

DeFau had arguably the best weekend of the Irish career over the last three days, helping Notre Dame sweep Villanova (4-0, 2-0) and Rutgers (8-5, 4-2). She hit .643 against conference competition with four RBI, five runs, two doubles and one home run. Her solo shot against Villanova was her second of the season – a new career high for the Southington, Conn., native.

Stenglein continued her stellar pitching over the last week, taking home three victories and improving her BIG EAST Conference record to 6-0. In 20 innings of work, Stenglein posted 24 strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs. She also struck out 16 batters in her two conference appearances.

DeFau and Stenglein’s awards are the eighth and ninth earned by Notre Dame this season – the most weekly awards of any BIG EAST Conference team. DeFau is the fourth different individual from Notre Dame to be named player of the week (Meagan Ruthauff twice, Megan Ciolli, Nicole Wicks), while Heather Booth has one pitching award. Wicks, Ciolli and deFau all earned weekly honors for the first time in their respective careers.

Live Audio Will Be Available Tuesday:

The Notre Dame – DePaul doubleheader live action will be available on Tuesday for the Fighting Irish Pass subscribers. Assistant Sports Information Director Chris Masters will provide play by play and commentary.

Notre Dame – DePaul Doubleheader Preview:

The Irish are set to play host to DePaul on Tuesday, April 27, in doubleheader action at Ivy Field (4 p.m.). The Blue Demons and Irish are meeting for the fifth consecutive season and 13th season out of the last 15 (the teams have met each year since 1989, save for 1996 and ’99). DePaul leads the all-time series 24-14-1, including wins in the last three meetings. Those last three victories follow a four-game win streak by the Irish in the series.

Of the teams Notre Dame has faced since it began varsity softball in 1989, DePaul is one of only four programs to have a winning record against the Irish with at least 10 meetings in the series. Indiana (10-9), Michigan (7-4) and Nebraska (7-4) are the other three schools.

Notre Dame is 5-9-1 at Ivy Field against DePaul.

DePaul team analysis:

Traditionally one of the strongest programs in the nation (and a team that will be part of the BIG EAST Conference in ’06), DePaul has struggled at times this season … the Blue Demons are 20-22-1 and 10-7 in Conference USA … the offense has not been a weak spot, however, as the team is hitting .301, led by Sarah Martz (.412, 18 RBI, 11 SB) … Martz also is the pitching staff ace with a 15-11 record and 2.20 ERA (153 Ks in 181.0 IP) … slugger Saskia Roberson leads the team in home runs (10) and RBI (40) and is currently hitting .404 … Christina Douglas (.345, 8 HR, 25 RBI) and Linda Secka (.362, 5 HR, 18 RBI) are also threats at the plate … DePaul’s defense has not been up to its typical strength this season, as the team currently has a .933 fielding percentage.

Irish assume control of the BIG EAST with a 4-0 weekend:

Notre Dame’s two doubleheader sweeps over the weekend – their first conference road games of the season – allowed it to take over first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a 12-0 record. The BIG EAST standings work on a point system, which can at least provide an idea of the eventually BIG EAST Championship field:

Key: Team, Current BIG EAST Record, Current Point Total, Possible Points Remaining, Possible Point Totals Should Team Win Remaining Conference Games

1. Notre Dame, 12-0, 24, 16, 40

2. Villanova, 11-5, 22, 8, 30

3. Virginia Tech, 9-7, 18, 8, 26

4. Providence, 8-8, 16, 8, 24

5. Seton Hall, 7-5, 14, 16, 30

6. Boston College, 7-9, 14, 16, 30

The BIG EAST Championship field is down to a six-team race, with the Irish needing essentially two more wins to lock up a bid into the tournament field. With two more victories, Notre Dame would have 28 points – and even an unlikely 0-6 finish to the conference season would put them in the field along with Villanova, Seton Hall and Boston College – if those teams win the rest of their games. The teams also cross over many times over the next two weeks, which could lead to the ‘possible point total’ dropping quickly.

Remaining schedule for the contending teams:

Notre Dame – Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, at Seton Hall, at St. John’s

Villanova – at St. John’s, at Seton Hall

Virginia Tech – at Notre Dame, at Syracuse

Providence – Connecticut, Boston College

Seton Hall – Rutgers, Villanova, Notre Dame, Syracuse

Boston College – at Providence, Pittsburgh

As indicated by the games remaining, Seton Hall controls much of its own destiny to make the top four with its eight remaining conference game all scheduled for its home field. Villanova’s trip to St. John’s and Seton Hall next weekend will determine much of the standings, as well as Boston College’s trip to Providence.

Notre Dame in the BIG EAST statistics:

The BIG EAST Conference has released its updated weekly statistics – and the Irish appear atop many of the lists. In conference only games, Notre Dame is hitting .356 as a team and posting a 0.91 ERA to lead all league teams. Nicole deFau is the leader in batting average (19-38, .500), followed by teammate Megan Ciolli (17-37, .459) in second and Liz Hartmann in fifth (14-34, .412).

Steffany Stenglein currently ranked first in the league for full-time starting pitchers with a 0.58 ERA and 6-0 record.