March 31, 2006
Notre Dame vs. Connecticut, Saturday, April 1, 12 noon
Notre Dame vs. Providence, Sunday, April 2, 11 a.m.
Homestand continues with BIG EAST opener vs. UConn on Saturday, doubleheader Sunday vs. Providence –
After outlasting Bowling Green 1-0 in 11 innings and marking the longest game in seven years at Ivy Field for its 2006 home opener, the University of Notre Dame softball team will welcome BIG EAST Conference play to its home field on Saturday with a doubleheader against Connecticut (12 noon).
The UConn doubleheader will be the second and third games of an eight-contest homestand for the Irish. The string of games will continue on Sunday with a doubleheader against Providence (11 a.m.), followed by two games with Eastern Michigan on Tuesday (4 p.m.) and a single game with Akron on Wednesday (4 p.m.).
Ivy Field parking information –
Due to construction on Ivy Road, the access to Ivy Field is limited this season. For Saturday’s doubleheader, Irish fans will be required to park at Frank Eck Stadium and walk to Ivy Field due to a home track meet. For the remaining games this season, the Alumni Field parking lot will be open (just south of the varsity soccer field and past the outfield wall of Frank Eck Stadium) and fans will be allowed to walk through Alumni Field to reach Ivy Field.
The University of Notre Dame softball team appreciates your patience with the access issues and thanks you for your continued support of Fighting Irish softball.
Ivy Field audio coverage –
Every 2006 Notre Dame home softball game will feature live audio coverage on www.und.com (Fighting Irish All-Access subscription required). This weekend’s games will be called by assistant sports information director Alan Wasielewski and can be heard live on www.und.com. For those tuned into the Bowling Green game, power was lost in the Ivy Field pressbox during the extra innings contest. The problem has been addressed and live audio coverage will not be interrupted for this weekend’s games.
Irish ALERT continues this weekend –
A joint effort between Centennial Wireless, Notre Dame Sports Properties and the Notre Dame Sports Information Office has made up-to-the-minute text messaging a reality this season. Notre Dame announced the Irish ALERT system, which will cover baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse this spring for a free trial.
Simply sign up for the service at www.und.com and your mobile device will receive score updates from each of the four sports throughout the 2006 season. The service also will provide periodical updates providing team schedules and special alerts when content is uploaded on www.und.com.
For softball, updates are sent when the weekly release is posted on www.und.com, when a schedule change pops up (delayed games, added games) and in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings of each Irish game.
Bowling Green recap –
The Irish won their third game in a row and 2006 home opener on Wednesday, March 29, inching by Bowling Green 1-0 in 11 innings. The game was the longest at Ivy Field in seven seasons (a 2-1 setback to IUPUI in 1999) and the longest of the Deanna Gumpf era.
Senior Heather Booth won a pitching duel with BGSU’s Lisa Vrabel, holding the Falcons to just three hits in 11 innings of action. Two clutch two-out hits delivered the victory for Notre Dame, a single by freshman Alexandra Kotcheff and a walk-off double by senior Mallorie Lenn. The winning RBI was the team-leading 15th for Lenn this season.
ND series history vs. Connecticut –
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Connecticut 22-7 and was won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the two schools … the Irish are 12-2 against Connecticut at Ivy Field … from 1996-98 (Notre Dame’s first three years in the BIG EAST Conference), the series was close with Notre Dame holding a slight 6-5 advantage over that three-year stretch … UConn’s last win in the series was a 2-1 decision at Ivy Field on April 27, 2003.
Connecticut preview –
The Huskies are 14-11 on the season and currently sit in first place of the BIG EAST Conference standings after sweeping two league doubleheaders last weekend … UConn swept Rutgers and Villanova for their two victories last weekend … the Huskies are led on offense by freshman C/OF Danielle Del Ponte, who is hitting .324 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 2006 … the pitching staff is anchored by junior Krista Micalczyk, who is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA … senior Michelle Caouette has seen a large number of innings as well (5-4, 3.67 ERA) … Connecticut is 13-9 away from the UConn Softball Field this season and 7-2 on its opponent’s home field.
Notre Dame in BIG EAST openers –
Notre Dame is 18-2 (.900) in BIG EAST Conference opening doubleheaders since joining the league in 1996 … the two losses came to Connecticut in 2000 (the only time the Irish have lost their first BIG EAST game of the year) and Rutgers in 1998 … for the team’s first home BIG EAST doubleheader of the year, the Irish are 17-3 (.850) with the losses coming to Connecticut (2000) and Boston College twice in 1997.
Providence series history –
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Providence 21-0 … the teams have met each season of BIG EAST play (since 1996) … the Irish have shutout the Friars 12 times in the 21 previous meetings of the series history … Providence came within one out of ending the Irish winning streak last season … trailing Providence 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Katie Laing and Meagan Ruthrauff posted back-to-back doubles, one driving in the tying run and the other the winning run, allowing the Irish to escape with a 5-4 victory … Notre Dame is 8-0 against Providence at Ivy Field.
Providence preview –
The Friars are 16-5 in 2006 and 3-1 in BIG EAST play … they currently sit in second place of the league standings … senior Elena Romero leads the team in hitting with a .410 average, three home runs and 15 RBI … the pitching staff has been a team strength this season, with Jennifer Maccio going 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA and Sara Surosky posting a 11-5 record and 1.92 ERA … Providence is 16-5 away from their home field this season and 3-1 on opposing team’s home fields in `06.
After slow start, Irish now 2-3 in extra innings –
After dropping the team’s first three extra inning contests of the season (5-2 to #17 Nebraska in eight, 2-1 to Stephen F. Austin in eight and 3-2 to CS Fullerton in eight), Notre Dame has broken through to win its last two games in extra innings. The Irish defeated Western Michigan in the second game of the team’s doubleheader on March 26, 2-1 and outlasted Bowling Green 1-0 in 11 innings on Wednesday, March 29.
Kotcheff hitting well in March –
Freshman Alexandra Kotcheff got off to a slow start with the bat in 2006, but the Irish centerfielder has been finding her stroke in the past month. Entering March with an average hovering close to .100, Kotcheff has gone 15 for 47 (.319) in March to raise her season average to .250 during the run. Her solid work with the bat also perpetuated a move up the batting order to second.
Brown piling up the hits –
Currently leading the team in hitting with a .342 batting average, junior Stephanie Brown has been a catalyst for the Irish offense for the entire season. She posted a career-best 10-game hit streak from Feb. 24 – March 12 and kept hitting even after the streak was broken. Over Notre Dame’s last 10 games, Brown is 12 for 32 (.375) with seven runs scored, three RBI, one home run and three stolen bases.
Irish juggle lineup in search for both offensive production and defensive consistency –
Since returning from Spring Break and its early-season tournament schedule, head coach Deanna Gumpf has made two substantial position changes to her lineup. Senior Meagan Ruthrauff has shifted across the infield to take over at third base and passed all her defensive tests with flying colors over the last three games. Ruthrauff started the first 21 games of the year at first base.
Against Bowling Green on Wednesday, Gumpf shifted Stephanie Brown from rightfield to left and inserted freshman Stephanie Mola in the defensive lineup in rightfield. To this point in the season, leftfield has been an offensive issue with the Irish. Before Brown’s shift to leftfield, Notre Dame’s platoon system in that position accounted for only 10 hits in 57 at bats, a .175 batting average.
Notre Dame softball on the small screen –
The University of Notre Dame softball team will be featured four times on cable television this season, with a possible fifth appearance in the BIG EAST Championship. Notre Dame’s first appearance will be the first game of a doubleheader vs. DePaul on April 13. ESPNU will cover the first game of the doubleheader (4:00 p.m.) between the long-time regional rivals and new conference opponents.
ESPNU also will cover Notre Dame’s first visit to USF as a conference opponent, picking up the first game of that doubleheader on Saturday, April 29 (11:00 a.m.).
Comcast Local (check your local listings for affiliates) will tape delay Notre Dame’s contest vs. Ball State on Tuesday, April 11 at 5:00 p.m. Rebroadcast schedule is unknown at this time.
Notre Dame’s road game at Louisville will also be televised in the Louisville, Ky., area with ABC affiliate WHAS picking up the broadcast.
Finally, CSTV will broadcast the BIG EAST Championship final game from the Belleville Softball Complex in South Bend, Ind., on May 13 at 6 p.m. The winner of that contest will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
New BIG EAST Conference unveiled in 2006 –
The BIG EAST Conference expansion, which officially took place this fall, has garnered most of its attention in men’s basketball. The conference has quickly transformed into the top men’s basketball league in the country, but the effect that expansion will have on softball cannot be overlooked. The BIG EAST welcomes three traditional softball powers into the conference this season with the addition of DePaul, Louisville and South Florida. All three of the new teams will compete to end Notre Dame’s regular-season conference title streak which stands at 10 years entering the `06 campaign.
Combined with an already solid conference lineup, the BIG EAST is now arguably the top softball league east of the Mississippi River. With a new league alignment, the BIG EAST Championship – scheduled to be played in South Bend, Ind., beginning May 11 – will feature a new schedule. The top eight teams from the league standings will take part in a single-elimination, three-day tournament to determine the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Championship. The final game of that tournament will be shown live on CSTV.
Irish captains –
Notre Dame will feature four captains this season for just the second time in the program’s history. The senior class of Heather Booth, Mallorie Lenn, Meagan Ruthrauff and Sara Schoonaert will provide leadership both on and off the field for the team in 2006. The only other team to feature four captains was Notre Dame’s most successful team ever – the 2001 squad. Current Irish assistant coach Lizzy Lemire shared the captaincy that season with Melanie Alkire, Danielle Klayman and Jennifer Sharron. The Irish finished 54-7 in `01 and earned a number-one seed in the NCAA Championship.
Booth to continue climb up Notre Dame career charts –
Senior co-captain Heather Booth, a front-line starter for the Irish since she walked on campus four years ago, will continue her climb up the Irish career pitching charts this season. The single-season record holder for complete games (30 in `04), Booth’s current all-time statistical ranking include tied for second in appearances (134), third in starts (110), fourth in wins (76), third in complete games (70), fourth in shutouts (24), third in innings pitched (737.1) and fourth in strikeouts (696).
See page seven of this notes package for a complete listing of Notre Dame’s current players on several different all-time statistical rankings.
Season schedule has been/will be a challenge –
The 2006 season will prove a challenge for the Irish, as the team will face several teams ranked in the top 25, or just out of the national rankings.
According to the latest rankings, the Irish will face (NFCA rankings first, followed by USA Softball) #25/22 DePaul #18/16 Northwestern and #20/21 Louisville. Notre Dame has already faced #10/10 Arizona State (3-2 victory), #4/4 Texas (6-5 loss), #6/7 Alabama (4-3 loss), #14/12 Oregon State (5-0 loss) BYU (8-3 victory), who has been in and out of the national polls this season and #17/17 Nebraska (5-3, eight-inning loss).
Notre Dame knocked off four ranked teams durng the 2005 season. The Irish defeated #21 South Florida and #19 Florida on their first weekend of action (Feb. 12-13), then knocked off #5/6 Tennessee in its last game at the Palm Springs Classic. Notre Dame also defeated #15 Northwestern with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh on Tuesday, April 26, 2005.
Under head coach Deanna Gumpf, the Irish have knocked off at least three ranked teams in three of four seasons (#25 South Florida, #4 Nebraska, #15 Oregon State in `02; #8 Nebraska, #14 Nebraska, #18 Nebraska in `04). The Irish have defeated a total of 14 ranked teams during Gumpf’s tenure. The most ranked wins for the Irish came in 2001, when the team defeated eight teams ranked in the national top 25.
New coaching staff, new Gumpf Family addition –
Notre Dame unveiled its new coaching staff in a unique way this season. Lizzy Lemire, a 2001 Notre Dame graduate, has joined the staff and Kris Ganeff (Notre Dame `99) moves up into the first assistant role. The change came about with the decision of former Irish assistant coach Charmelle Green to take a job in Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Development Program.
The unusual twist to the story is that Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf missed Lemire’s official debut with the team. Gumpf and her husband John welcomed their second child, Tatum Elizabeth, on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Deanna has rejoined the team full time on the road for its Spring Break trip to Southern California.
To aid in the pitching staff’s development during Gumpf’s pregnancy, former Irish assistant coach and 1993 Penn State graduate Dawn Austin returned to the team as a volunteer assistant coach this season.
Ruthrauff reaches career walks record –
Senior 1B/3B Meagan Ruthrauff, Notre Dame’s cleanup hitter the last three seasons, is not only a potent RBI producer (128 in three-plus years, tied for seventh on the all-time Notre Dame list), but she also has outstanding plate discipline.
Ruthrauff has drawn 94 walks during her career, surpassing matching Andrea Loman’s (2000-03) previous Notre Dame career record of 87.
Ruthrauff has already drawn 14 free passes this season and ranks one-two on the single-season walk list at Notre Dame. In 2004, she drew a record 36 base on balls and followed up with 31 walks in 2005.3