April 27, 1998

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame’s softball team will face Connecticut in its first game of the BIG EAST softball championship on Saturday, May 2, at 12:00 p.m., at Notre Dame’s Ivy Field, the site of the 1998 BIG EAST softball championship. The pairings for the four-team BIG EAST championship were announced on Monday with Notre Dame, Boston College, Rutgers and Connecticut making up the four-team field, double-elimination tournament. Defending champion Boston College will play Rutgers at 10:00 a.m. in the first game of the championship on Saturday, May 2, at 10:00, while Notre Dame and Connecticut square off. The winners will meet at 2:00 p.m. with the losers to play at 4:00 p.m. The championship concludes on Sunday, May 3, with games at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and a possible seventh game at 2:00 p.m.

The Irish and Eagles each won their respective divisional titles to qualify. Notre Dame finished with a 13-3 record in the BIG EAST South Division while Boston College went 13-3-1 in the North Division. Rutgers finished second in the South Division with a 10-5 record while Connecticut was second in the North Division with an 8-7 record, earning a spot in the field over Villanova, who finished 8-6 in the BIG EAST and in third place in the BIG EAST South Division.

The Irish swept a doubleheader against the Huskies 4-0 and 7-2 earlier in the season and are 7-4 all-time against Connecticut, including 4-0 at Ivy Field. Three of the Huskies’ wins over the Irish have come in the BIG EAST championships with two wins in the 1996 championship and one in 1997 as Connecticut eliminated Notre Dame from its first two appearances at the BIG EAST championship. The Irish will take a 30-4 all-time Ivy Field BIG EAST record into the championship, including a 9-0 record in 1998.

Notre Dame wrapped up its third straight BIG EAST South Division title with a three-game sweep of Villanova this past weekend, extending its winning streak to 15 games, the longest since a school record 19-game winning streak in 1996. The Irish, who will face Indiana State on Tuesday, April 28, were led last week by junior Amy Laboe (Monroe, Mich./St. Mary) and freshmen Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif./James Logan) and Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif./Thousand Oaks), who each earned weekly BIG EAST honors for their performances.

Laboe became the third straight Notre Dame player to be named player of the week, joining Lisa Tully and Jenn Giampaolo. The rightfielder led the Irish as she hit 10-15 (.667) this week with three doubles and three runs scored. Laboe entered the week with 14 RBI in 45 games this year and nearly matched that with 11 last week in five games. Laboe came up with several clutch hits to help the Irish sweep the Villanova series, including two, two-out, two-run singles. She raised her batting average 37 point last week to .333, second best on the team.

Alkire hit .333 last week with three doubles, a run scored and six RBI, second on the team to Laboe’s 11. She also went 2-0 on the mound with wins over Toledo and Villanova. Alkire, who is hitting .327 with a 7-1 record on the mound, entered in the fourth inning of the second game against Villanova with the score knotted at 3-3. She allowed just three hits and a seventh-inning unearned run to help Notre Dame clinch the BIG EAST South Division title with a 7-4 win.

Sharron was a perfect 3-0 last week in her three starts, including two wins against Villanova to help the Irish clinch their third straight BIG EAST South Division title. She led the staff with 12 innings pitched. Opposing batters hit just .167 against her as she gave up just one earned run for a 0.58 ERA. Sharron held Villanova, the top hitting team in the BIG EAST heading into the weekend, to a .138 batting average (4-29) against her. She leads the team with a 15-6 record and finished as the leader in the BIG EAST with a 0.90 ERA in conference games. Sharron is 8-0 in her last eight starts with five complete games, three shutouts and a 0.60 ERA.

1998 BIG EAST Softball Championship
Ivy Field, Notre Dame, Ind.

Saturday, May 2Game 1:  Boston College vs. Rutgers 10:00 a.m.Game 2:  Notre Dame vs. Connecticut 12:00 p.m.Game 3:  Games 1 and 2 Winners      2:00 p.m.Game 4:  Games 1 and 2 Losers       4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 3Game 5: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner 10:00 a.m.Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner 12:00 p.m.Game 7: necessary if Game 5 Winner wins Game 6 2:00 p.m.