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Softball Off To Syracuse For 2004 BIG EAST Championship

May 12, 2004

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2004 BIG EAST Championship

SU Softball Stadium * Syracuse, N.Y.

Thursday, May 13

Game One: #2 Seton Hall vs. #3 Villanova, 5 p.m.

Game Two: #1 Notre Dame vs. #4 Boston College, 7 p.m.

Friday, May 14

Game Three: Winner Game One vs. Winner Game Two, 3 p.m.

Game Four: Loser Game One vs. Loser Game Two, 5 p.m.

Game Five: Loser Game Three vs. Winner Game Four, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 15

Game Six: Winner Game Three vs. Winner Game 5, 1 p.m.

Game Seven: Same teams as Game Six, if necessary, 3 p.m.

Irish Quick Facts:

* Notre Dame is going after its third consecutive BIG EAST Championship this weekend in head coach Deanna Gumpf’ s third year with the program.

* The Irish are 17-9 (.653) in BIG EAST Championship competition with four titles in eight previous appearances.

Irish off to Syracuse for the 2004 BIG EAST Championship:

The University of Notre Dame softball team (46-16, 18-2) hopes to secure an automatic berth in the 2004 NCAA Softball Championship field by winning the BIG EAST Championship this weekend. The winner of the BIG EAST Championship receives the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA field.

Notre Dame has won the last two BIG EAST Championship titles and are looking to win three in a row for the first time in the program’s history. Although Notre Dame has qualified for the BIG EAST Championship each season it has been in the league (since 1996), the Irish have been able to leave the competitive tournament with just four titles.

Connecticut is the last BIG EAST team to win three titles in a row, accomplishing that feat in the 1991, ’92 and ’93 seasons (the Huskies actually won four in a row – starting when the BIG EAST began to sponsor a softball championship in 1990).

Out of this year’s four-team field, only Boston College (1998, ’97) and the Irish have earned BIG EAST Championship titles. Boston College is making its 11th appearance, followed by Villanova (10), Notre Dame (nine) and Seton Hall (six).

Live coverage of the 2004 BIG EAST Championship:

The BIG EAST Conference will have both live stats and live audio coverage available for all the games this weekend in Syracuse. Visitors to will be able to view box scores and play by play in progress from the championship venue.

Statistics will be updated as the game is played, giving users real-time access to scoring. A live broadcast will also be available, with Dan D’Uva and Todd Robbins calling of the action from each contest this weekend.

BIG EAST Championship ticket information:

Admission for each day of the BIG EAST Softball Championship is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors (55 and older) and children (12 and under). Students from BIG EAST Conference institutions will be admitted free of charge with a valid school ID.

The 2004 BIG EAST Championship field:

#4 Boston College – Notre Dame will meet #4 Boston College on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Irish swept the Eagles 5-0 and 7-1 at Ivy Field on April 4 this season. The Notre Dame pitching staff combined to allow just three hits to Boston College batters in the two games, while the Irish offense pounded out 14 hits. Mallorie Lenn and Nicole deFau both hit home runs in the doubleheader, while Meagan Ruthrauff drove in two runs on two hits.

#2 Seton Hall – The Pirates handed Notre Dame just its second doubleheader sweep in BIG EAST Conference play last weekend, shutting down the Notre Dame offense with 5-0 and 1-0 victories. Seton Hall is looking for its first BIG EAST Championship this weekend. They will face Villanova on Thursday at 5 p.m., and the two teams split their match ups earlier this season – Seton Hall winning 3-0 and Villanova earning a 6-5 decision.

#3 Villanova – Villanova is making its fifth straight appearance in the BIG EAST Championship. The Irish swept a doubleheader from the Wildcats on April 24 of this season, taking game one 4-0 and game two 2-0. Senior Nicole deFau led the way with four hits in the two games, including a home run and double. Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein quieted the Villanova offense, scattering nine hits and not allowing a run.

Notre Dame BIG EAST Championship history:

The past two seasons at the BIG EAST Championship have provided some of the most dramatic moments of the Deanna Gumpf era with Notre Dame softball. In 2002, the Irish lost on the first day to Virginia Tech and were forced to work their way through the loser’s bracket, eventually having to defeat the Hokies twice on Saturday to claim the team title.

The Irish came into the league championship on fire last season, defeating Seton Hall 9-0 in five innings on the first day, then scoring nine runs early before a late rally cut into a lead vs. Villanova. The Irish eventually won 9-7, then eliminated the Wildcats on Saturday in nine innings 3-2. Andrea Loman, a 2003 graduate, earned her second BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player award after hitting a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

The 2001 season was an interesting experience for the Irish. Enjoying the best season in the program’s history, Notre Dame was ranked seventh in the nation with a 52-3 record. The Irish lost their first two games of the tournament, however, as their offense decided not to make the trip to Villanova (the site of the ’01 championship). The 2001 season proved, beyond a doubt, that anything can happen at the BIG EAST Softball Championship.

Notre Dame won the league title in 1999 and 2000, under head coach Liz Miller. Melanie Alkire was named the most outstanding player in ’00, following in Jennifer Sharron’s footsteps in ’99.

Notre Dame boasts the second-best winning percentage in BIG EAST Championship history (17-9, .653), trailing Connecticut at .707 (29-12 in 12 appearances).

Ciolli looking at .400:

Junior centerfielder Megan Ciolli is making a push to become the third Irish player to finish a season hitting over .400. Andrea Loman accomplished that feat last season (.402), along with Meghan Murray in ’96 (.402) and ’97 (.422). Ciolli currently has 75 hits (fourth on the single-season list) and has a batting average of .410.

While the .410 number is impressive, Ciolli also has a shot at the hits in a season record (the leader is Meghan Murray in ’96 with 84) and the single-season stolen base record. The Terre Haute, Ind., native currently has 19, with Katie Marten (’96) holding the record at 21.

Notre Dame posts 18 league wins for the third time:

With two wins over St. John’s on Sunday, May 9, Notre Dame posted at least 18 wins in BIG EAST Conference play for the third time.

Notre Dame is the only team to ever post 18 wins in a conference season, accomplishing the feat in 2001 and 2002. The ’01 squad was a perfect 20-0 in BIG EAST play.

Putting the 2004 season into perspective:

Entering postseason play with a 46-16 record, the ’04 Notre Dame softball team is quietly posting one of its most impressive campaigns in school history.

The season started strong with two come from behind victories at the UNLV Classic, including a victory over nationally ranked Nebraska. The Irish also claimed the NFCA Leadoff Classic Silver Bracket Championship in February, becoming the first Notre Dame team to claim a title at that prestigious tournament.

The loss of starting outfielder Kellie Middleton forced a change in Notre Dame’s lineup, but the team quickly adapted to the loss of one its top players.

The Irish have been among the top 30 teams in the country for the entire season, peaking at 22nd in the USA Today/NFCA poll last week (May 4).

Statistically, the ’04 teams stands out when compared to previous Irish squads.

Among the more impressive stats, Notre Dame’s 82 doubles are the third-best in school history – trailing the 98 in ’01 which led the country. Other stats to keep an eye on over the final weeks of the season:

Hits – Notre Dame currently has 445, good for 11th on the all-time list.

Home Runs – ND has hit 38 this season, the third-best all time.

RBI – ND has drove in 223 runs this season, eighth all-time and just 14 out of the top five.

BB – ND has drawn 130 walks this season, just 13 away from setting a new single season record.

Fielding % – Even with an entirely new infield this season, the Irish have been steady defensively. Their .971 fielding percentage is tied for second all-time behind the school-record .974 last season.

Irish enjoying life without the worries from school and finals:

Typically, Notre Dame has entered the BIG EAST Championship worrying about finals, which for the last several seasons have taken place on the same week as the league tournament.

This season, due to school ending early and the BIG EAST Championship having been pushed back one week, Notre Dame will be completely done with school and focused entirely on playing softball.

Irish pitching staff putting up one of the best seasons ever:

The Irish pitching staff, featuring arguably the top two pitchers in the BIG EAST Conference in Steffany Stenglein and Heather Booth, is compiling one of the best seasons in Notre Dame softball history. The team ERA stands at 1.50 as of May 12, which would rank seventh all time and the best since 2001 (where the Irish posted a team record 0.89). Stenglein and Booth are also making their presence felt on the single-season record book. Booth is currently second in games started (32), with Stenglein close behind at 30 (third). Booth’s 22 victories are fifth on the all-time list, followed closely once again in sixth place by Stenglein’s 21.

Booth has a chance at the single-season complete games record this weekend, as her 26 are currently second, just two behind record holder Jennifer Sharron (27 in ’00). Stenglein is sixth on the complete games list with 20.

The strong numbers continue in shutouts, as Booth has 10 (fifth on the single season list) and Stenglein six (eighth). Both pitchers could also finish in the top 10 for innings pitched in a season.

Finally, the winning percentage by both pitchers rank in the top 15. Booth at 22-7 (.778) is 10th, with Stenglein in 12th (21-8, .724).

BIG EAST pitching dominance:

While the Irish pitching staff has received some deserved attention for its overall marks this season, their statistics in the BIG EAST Conference are even more impressive. According to the final conference statistics, the Irish have allowed just 16 earned runs for a staff ERA of 0.89 in conference competition. Both Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein finished 9-1, with Stenglein’s 0.49 ERA just a bit better than Booth’s 1.33. Stenglein struck out 61 batters in 57.0 innings, with Booth at 59 in 63.1 innings. The entire Irish staff (with Carrie Wisen adding 5.1 innings) posted 12 shutouts and allowed just 75 hits (3.7 per game).

BIG EAST offensive dominance:

The Notre Dame pitching staff has been outstanding, but Notre Dame’s offense was equally impressive this season in conference competition. Notre Dame ended up hitting .345 in conference play, against just .170 for their opposition.

The statistical differential continues across the board, with Notre Dame driving in 103 runs (vs. 21 for their opponents), hitting 12 home runs (two for opponents) and posting 174 hits (vs. 75 for their opponents). The Irish also scored a league high 118 runs, while allowing just 16 earned runs to cross the plate.

Megan Ciolli leads the way with a .491 batting average in conference play. Senior Nicole deFau is close behind at .424 (with five doubles, two triples and two home runs). In run production, Meagan Ruthrauff drove in a league-high 18, followed by Stephanie Brown and Mallorie Lenn with 15.

Notre Dame’s BIG EAST regular season title is its ninth straight since entering the league:

The Irish claimed their sixth straight overall BIG EAST regular season crown over the weekend, but Notre Dame has earned a share of a regular season title each season it has been in the BIG EAST Conference. In 1996, ’97 and ’98, the BIG EAST was split into a north and south division – with the Irish winning south division titles all three seasons. That gives the Irish nine-straight BIG EAST regular season titles.

Notre Dame reaches the 40-win plateau for the fifth time in the last six seasons:

With Notre Dame’s victory in game two of the doubleheader with DePaul, the Irish reached the 40-win mark for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Notre Dame has achieved the 40-win mark eight times in the program’s history and have appeared in the NCAA Championship each season that has occurred.

Notre Dame has nine 10-plus RBI producers:

The 2004 Irish have nine players who have driven in at least 10 runs this season – which ties the 2001 season for second place all-time. The 1994 season saw 10 Irish players drive in at least 10 runs.

So far in ’04, Meagan Ruthrauff has posted 53 RBI, followed by Liz Hartmann (30), Stephanie Brown (27), Mallorie Lenn (27), Megan Ciolli (20), Nicole Wicks (15) and Nicole deFau (15), Sara Schoonaert (15) and Carissa Jaquish (12).

Ruthrauff posting one of the top offensive campaigns in school history:

Sophomore Meagan Ruthrauff, who leads the Irish in home runs (11) and RBI (53) is compiling one of the top single-season offensive performances in Notre Dame softball history. Entering postseason play, she has already put her name on three of the top five lists for single season offensive numbers.

Jarrah Myers is the single-season home run leader with 13 – Ruthrauff currently has 11, which is good for third all-time (Myers and Andrea Loman are second with 12).

Melanie Alkire is the single-season RBI leader with 64 – a mighty number that will be hard to match, but Ruthrauff is currently second on the all-time list with 53. She is just the second Irish player to drive in 50 runs in a single season.

Ruthrauff already has set the single season record for walks, as she has been issued a free pass 35 times this season.

Freshman home run record in serious jeopardy:

Junior Liz Hartmann slammed seven home runs during her rookie season in 2002 to set the school mark for round trippers by a freshman – and teammate Stephanie Brown has that record in sight for 2004. Brown has already sent six balls out of the park this year and needs just two more to break Hartmann’s mark.

Booth – Stenglein looking to become the second tandem to reach the 200-strikeout barrier:

Sophomore Heather Booth (198) and junior Steffany Stenglein (166) are in the running to become just the second set of Irish pitchers to post 200 strikeouts in the same season. Kristin Schmidt (247) and Jennifer Sharron (224) accomplished the feat in 2001.

Booth and Stenglein join Schmidt and Sharron as the only duo to each post 150 strikeouts in the same season.

Hartmann continues trek up the all-time home run list:

Junior Liz Hartmann, who still has one full year of eligibility left, has the Notre Dame all-time home run record in reach. She has 24 entering this weekend’s action (seven as a freshman, nine as a sophomore, eight currently as a junior) and sits in fifth place on the all-time top five for home runs at Notre Dame. The top five:

1. Jarrah Myers (1999-2002), 36

2. Andrea Loman (2000-03), 31

3. Melanie Alkire (1998-2001), 30

4. Sara Hayes (1992-95), 26

5. Liz Hartmann (2002-current), 24

Many of Hartmann’s home runs have come in dramatic fashion – see the “Homers in the clutch” note later in this package.

Games played records will fall in 2004:

Notre Dame has already played 62 games this season – and will play at least two games this weekend. That would give the ’04 Irish 64 games played before a possible spot in the NCAA regionals. The record for games played in a season is 65 by the 1992 squad. The individual games played record also will fall this season, with Meagan Ruthrauff, Heather Brown, Nicole deFau and Sara Schoonaert all appearing in 62 games so far for Notre Dame.

Irish hit 40 games on April 6 for the second time in school history:

Notre Dame completed its 40th game on April 6 vs. Purdue, matching the 1996 team as the fastest to reach the 40-games played mark.

Notre Dame’s 29-11 record matches the ’03 team as the fourth-best in school history over the first 40 games of the year:

1996: 30-10

2000: 31-9

2001: 37-3

2003: 29-11

2004: 29-11

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 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 loaded schedule:

The University of Notre Dame softball team prides itself on taking on the best in the nation. During the first five weeks of the season, the Irish travel around the country, taking part in several of the top tournaments. So far in 2004, according to the latest national polls (May 4), Notre Dame has faced several ranked teams – with 10 currently ranked teams combined with some that have been in and out of the top 25.

* #2/3 California (L, 1-2) – now ranked #5/4

* #6/6 Georgia, (L, 1-7) – now ranked #12/10

* #11/12 Michigan (L, 0-3) – now ranked #7/8

* #8/8 Nebraska (W, 6-4), now ranked #14/13

* #14/14 Nebraska (W, 1-0), now ranked #14/13

* #8/8 Stanford (L, 2-4), now ranked #6/7

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

* #4/6 Florida State (L, 3-4 – 10 innings), now ranked #2/2

* NR Pacific (L, 1-12), was ranked in the top 25 until last week

* NR Georgia Tech (W, 2-1), now ranked #22/25

* NR Texas A&M, now ranked #24/#23

* #18/18 Nebraska (L, 0-1), now ranked #14/13

* #18/18 Nebraska (W, 2-0), now ranked #14/13

The Irish also have faced DePaul, Florida Atlantic, Hawaii and Massachusetts who have all appeared in the top 25 (or received votes) at some point this season.

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 128-50 (.719) 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.

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.