May 5, 2004
#25/22 Notre Dame at Seton Hall, Saturday, May 8, 12 p.m. (DH)
#25/22 Notre Dame at St. John’s, Sunday, May 9, 11 a.m. (DH)
Irish Quick Facts:
* Notre Dame hopes to keep its BIG EAST Conference record unblemished this weekend when it visits Seton Hall and St. John’s.
* The Irish have already clinched the BIG EAST regular season title and number one seed in the BIG EAST Championship.
Irish hit the road for their final regular season contests of the season:
The University of Notre Dame softball team (44-14, 16-0) heads to the east coast this weekend for its final four regular season contests of the 2004 season. The Irish, who have already locked up the BIG EAST regular season title and number one seed in the conference championship, are looking to post just their second perfect record in BIG EAST play since 1996 (the Irish went 20-0 in 2001).
Notre Dame moved to 16-0 in the BIG EAST with two dominating doubleheader sweeps over the weekend. The Irish defeated Virginia Tech 5-0 and 9-1 (5), then needed just 11 innings to take care of Pittsburgh 8-0 (6), 9-0 (5). Earlier in the week, Notre Dame lost game one to Midwest rival DePaul 3-1 before claiming a 2-1 victory in game two.
Irish earn highest ranking of the season:
Notre Dame’s run to 16-0 in the BIG EAST Conference has caught the eye of the voters in both national polls. The Irish initially debuted in the top 25 back on March 3, coming in at 23rd in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 after winning the NFCA Leadoff Classic Silver Bracket Championship. Notre Dame eventually slipped out of both national polls before reappearing last week at #25 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.
The four conference victories and doubleheader split with DePaul moved the Irish into both polls for the first time this season. Notre Dame is currently 22nd in the USA Today/NFCA listing and 25th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
Heather Booth earns second BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year award:
Junior righthander Heather Booth nabbed the second BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week award of the season on May 3, sharing the honor with St. John’s Courtney Fitzgerald. Booth had a pair of complete-game shutouts in conference play last weekend, throwing 13 innings without allowing a run. She gave up just five hits while striking out 18 (nine in each contest).
Booth was previously named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on March 1.
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 74 hits (fourth on the single-season list) and has a batting average of .413.
While the .413 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.
Irish enjoying life without the worries from school and finals:
Typically, Notre Dame has entered the final week of conference play worrying about finals, then attempting to get them completed before taking off on Wednesday for the BIG EAST Championship.
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. For the last several years, the BIG EAST Championship week has been a battle of finishing finals, establishing living arrangements for the summer and trying to concentrate on 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 1.51 as of May 5, 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 third in games started (30), with Stenglein close behind at 28 (fifth). Booth’s 21 victories are sixth on the all-time list, followed closely once again in seventh place by Stenglein’s 20.
Booth has a chance at the single-season complete games record this weekend, as her 25 are currently third, just two behind record holder Jennifer Sharron (27 in ’00). Stenglein is seventh on the complete games list with 18.
The strong numbers continue in shutouts, as Booth has 10 (fifth on the single season list) and Stenglein five (ninth). 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 10. Booth at 21-6 (.778) is seventh, with Stenglein in 10th (20-7, .740).
Sophomore Heather Booth is 8-0 in BIG EAST Competition with five shutouts.
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. Entering the final weekend of conference play, the Irish have allowed just 11 earned runs for a staff ERA of 0.77 in conference competition. Both Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein are 8-0, with Stenglein’s 0.64 ERA just a bit better than Booth’s 0.95. Stenglein has struck out 50 batters in 44.0 innings, with Booth matching the 50 in 51.2 innings. The entire Irish staff (with Carrie Wisen adding 4.1 innings) has posted 11 shutouts and allowed just 59 hits (3.7 per game).
BIG EAST offensive dominance:
The Notre Dame pitching staff has been outstanding, but Notre Dame’s offense has been equally impressive this season in conference competition. Notre Dame is hitting .368 in conference play, against just .170 for their opposition.
The statistical differential continues across the board, with Notre Dame driving in 94 runs (vs. 10 for their opponents), hitting 11 home runs (two for opponents) and posting 148 hits (vs. 59 for their opponents).
Megan Ciolli leads the way with an eye-popping .510 batting average in conference play. Senior Nicole deFau is close behind at .479 (with five doubles, two triple and two home runs). In run production, Meagan Ruthrauff has driven in 16, followed by Stephanie Brown with 15 and Mallorie Lenn with 13.
The Irish also have stole 24 bases, compared to just six for the opposition.
BIG EAST Championship switched to Syracuse, N.Y. for 2004:
The 2004 BIG EAST Championship will be hosted by Syracuse University this season. During the previous two seasons, the BIG EAST Championship was held in Roanoke, Va., but a schedule change dictated a return to campus sites for the BIG EAST Championship.
Thursday, May 13
Game 1: No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 – 5:00 p.m.
Game 2: Notre Dame vs. No. 4 – 7:00 p.m.
Friday, May 14
Game 3: Winner game 1 vs.
Winner game 2 – 3:00 p.m.
Game 4: Loser game 1 vs.
Loser game 2 – 5:00 p.m.
Game 5: Loser game 3 vs.
Winner game 4 – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 15
Game 6: Winner game 3 vs.
Winner game 5 – 1:00 p.m.
Game 7: Same teams if necessary – 3:00 p.m.
A look at the possibilities of the BIG EAST Championship field:
Notre Dame (16-0, 32 points) and Villanova (12-8, 24 points) have already locked up two spots in the BIG EAST Championship – which features the top four teams from the regular season conference standings. The Irish also are assured the top seed, but this weekend’s conference competition will determine the other three spots in the championship – which will be held at Syracuse.
Providence, whose regular season is completed, will need some help over the weekend. At 10-10 in the league (20 points), they can be caught by Seton Hall (9-7), Boston College (9-9), St. John’s (8-8) or Syracuse (8-8).
Scenarios to make the championship:
Providence: Needs Syracuse to sweep both doubleheaders this weekend and Pittsburgh to defeat Boston College twice.
Seton Hall: Needs to split their doubleheaders this weekend (go 2-2) and win tie breakers. Three wins would guarantee a spot.
Boston College: Needs to sweep Pittsburgh, then tie breakers.
St. John’s: Needs to win three games this weekend, then tie breakers.
Syracuse: Controls its own destiny – needs to win all four games to get in.
The first BIG EAST tie breaker is head to head competition, followed by record against the number one seed (followed by the number two seed, etc.).
In short, Providence, Seton Hall, Boston College, St. John’s and Syracuse all have a shot to appear in the BIG EAST Championship.
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 give the Irish nine-straight BIG EAST regular season titles.
Series history with Seton Hall:
Notre Dame and Seton Hall will be meeting for the 24th and 25th time this weekend … the Irish lead the all-time series 22-1, with Seton Hall’s lone victory coming in the 2001 BIG EAST Championship … the Irish are 8-0 at Cameron Field.
Seton Hall team analysis:
Seton Hall enters the final weekend looking to secure a spot in the BIG EAST Championship … the Pirates are 38-16 on the season and 9-7 in BIG EAST play … Katie Pierce leads the team in hitting with a .340 average, four home runs and 25 RBI (she also has 25 stolen bases) … Laura Taylor provides the power in the lineup, with 13 home runs and 35 RBI this season … Megan Meyer has been among the top pitchers in the BIG EAST this season, boasting a 1.03 ERA, 20-6 record and 204 strikeouts … Casey McDevitt (2.41 ERA, 9-6) and Jessica Jones (2.48 ERA, 9-4) are also available in the pitching circle.
Series history with St. John’s:
Notre Dame and St. John’s will be meeting for the 17th and 18th time this weekend … the Irish lead the all-time series 16-0 … St. John’s will enter this weekend’s play with a shot at the BIG EAST Championship … Notre Dame is 6-0 at the Red Storm Field.
St. John’s team analysis:
St. John’s will face Syracuse on Saturday, with their eligibility for the BIG EAST Championship on the line … two wins vs. the Orangewomen will provide the Red Storm with motivation for the two games with the Irish … St. John’s is 26-24 this season and 8-8 in the BIG EAST … Jo Sherlock and Christina Tucker have combined for 82 RBI and 25 home runs this season … Sherlock is hitting .414, while Tucker is at .379 … Courtney Fitzgerald (15-3, 1.37 ERA) and Brittany Crouch (7-14, 2.90 ERA) have seen a majority of the pitching action for the Red Storm this season.
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.
Liz Hartmann has drove in 30 runs this season, to go along with her eight home runs.
So far in ’04, Meagan Ruthrauff has posted 51 RBI, followed by Liz Hartmann (30), Stephanie Brown (27), Mallorie Lenn (25), Megan Ciolli (20), Nicole Wicks (14) and Nicole deFau (14), Sara Schoonaert (13) 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 (10) and RBI (51) is compiling one of the top single-season offensive performances in Notre Dame softball history. With at least six games remaining (four this weekend, at least two in the BIG EAST Championship), 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 10, 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 51. 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 33 times this season.
Stenglein on a roll in the pitching circle:
Steffany Stenglein will bring a 9-0 record in her last nine starts into this weekend’s action. Over that stretch, she boasts a 9-0 record, 0.70 ERA, 51 Ks in 40.1 IP, allowed just five earned runs and posted four complete games.
Stenglein’s last loss came to Purdue in eight innings on April 6.
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 58 games this season – and have at four regular-season games scheduled for the rest of the season (plus at least two in the BIG EAST Championship). 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 Megan Ciolli, Meagan Ruthrauff, Heather Brown, Nicole deFau and Sara Schoonaert all appearing in 58 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:
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.
Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf is in her third season.
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, 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 126-48 (.725) 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 www.und.com 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.