Junior Stephanie Brown posted two game-winning hits during Notre Dame's 4-3 record during Spring Break.

Softball Returns To Midwest For Doubleheader At Western Michigan On Saturday

March 23, 2006

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Notre Dame at Western Michigan, Saturday, March 25, 1:00 p.m. (DH)

Irish begin Midwest/conference season with a doubleheader in Kalamazoo –

Notre Dame will look to snap its two-game losing streak on Saturday, March 25, with a doubleheader matchup at Western Michigan (10-5). The Irish have completed their early season tournament schedule and will turn the team’s focus toward the BIG EAST Conference season and regional competition against several teams from the Midwest.

Irish ALERT continues this weekend –

A joint effort between Centennial Wireless, Notre Dame Sports Properties and the Notre Dame Sports Information Office will make up-to-the-minute text messaging a reality this season. Notre Dame has announced that the Irish ALERT system, which will cover baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse will begin 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 mentioned 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.

Spring Break recap –

Notre Dame returned from its Spring Break strip to California with a record of 4-3. The trip began with a doubleheader sweep at Cal Poly SLO followed by a 2-3 trip through the Judi Garman Classic.

The Irish proved their ability to play with any team in the country, knocking off #10 Arizona State 3-2 on a walk-off home run by junior Stephanie Brown, then battling #4 Texas and #6 Alabama in one-run setbacks.

Brown was one of the top players for the Irish during the road trip, posting two game-winning hits (game one at Cal Poly SLO, vs. #10 Arizona State), while senior Mallorie Lenn also stepped up to hit two two-run home runs during the Judi Garman Classic.

ND series history vs. Western Michigan –

Traditionally one of Notre Dame’s first Midwestern team matchups each season, the Irish and Broncos will be meeting for the eighth and ninth time in the month of March this weekend … Notre Dame leads the all-time series 15-5 and has won eight of the last nine meetings … the Irish squeaked past the Broncos 2-1 in Notre Dame’s home opener last season at Ivy Field (March 24) … Notre Dame’s last visit to Kalamazoo ended up in a split doubleheader, as Western Michigan won game one 2-0 before the Irish rebounded to win game two 5-1 … Notre Dame is 8-3 at Fran Ebert Field.

Western Michigan preview –

The Broncos are 10-5 in 2005, a record which includes a 2-1 victory over defending national champion and seventh-ranked Michigan on March 4 … WMU will enter the weekend with a four-game winning streak that includes the Michigan win along with a victory over Maryland (4-3) and a doubleheader sweep of Loyola-Chicago (1-0, 7-0) … Kristi Strange leads the team in hitting with a solid .413 average and has driven in a team-high 12 runs … the pitching staff has been impressive thus far, boasting a 1.90 team ERA … Notre Dame will most likely see Krysten Shumaker (6-1, 1.60 ERA, 48 Ks in 48.0 IP) and Tricia Vanderslik (3-3, 1.89 ERA, 1 SHO) in the pitching circle … Western Michigan is 2-0 at Fran Ebert Field this season.

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.

Irish break out of hitting slumps with the long ball –

Two of Notre Dame’s home run hits during Spring Break hopefully marked the end of extended hitting slumps for two of the team’s top sluggers. Sophomore Katie Laing broke out of a five-for-37 slide with a solo home run against CS Fullerton on March 15. Since that big hit, Laing has gone four for 15 at the plate (.266) with three RBI, two runs scored and two-run home run vs. #4 Texas.

Freshman Linda Kohan ended her Spring Break trip on a high note, crushing a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning against #6 Alabama – ending her 0-22 slump. Kohan’s four home runs this season leads the team.

Brown providing big hits –

Junior Stephanie Brown posted two game-winning hits for the Irish during the team’s Spring Break trip to California. Brown drilled a two-RBI single in the top of the seventh to help Notre Dame overcome a 1-0 deficit in game one at Cal Poly SLO. The Irish eventually won the game 3-1.

Brown’s most dramatic hit was a walk-off two-run home run to leftfield against #10 Arizona State, handing the Sun Devils just their second loss of the season (at that point) and giving the Irish their most noteworthy win of the 2006 season.

Currently, Brown leads the team in hits (21), runs (14) and stolen bases (10).

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 third in appearances (131), third in starts (108), fourth in wins (74), third in complete games (69), fourth in shutouts (23), third in innings pitched (721.2) and fourth in strikeouts (685).

See page six 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 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 92 walks during her career, surpassing matching Andrea Loman’s (2000-03) previous Notre Dame career record of 87.

Ruthrauff has already drawn 12 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.