Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Softball Up Against Two Top 15 Teams This Weekend

March 10, 2004

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader

Notre Dame at #4/5 Florida State, Thursday, March 11, 5:00 p.m.

2004 Florida State Invitational * March 12-14 * Tallahassee, Fla.

Notre Dame vs. #11/12 Michigan, Friday, March 12, 10:00 a.m.

Notre Dame vs. Troy State, Friday, March 12, 6:00 p.m.

Notre Dame vs. Georgia State, Saturday, March 13, 10:00 a.m.

Notre Dame vs. Maryland, Saturday, March 13, 12:00 p.m.

Tournament continues Sunday, March 14

Irish Quick Facts:

* Notre Dame returns to Tallahassee, Fla., for the first time since 1996 to participate in the 2004 Semiole Classic.

* This weekend caps off the Irish spring break trip, during which they also competed in last week’s FAU/Worth Invitational.

* Notre Dame is 12-6 this season and has won seven of its last 10 games.

Irish head up the Florida penninsula to Tallahasee:

The University of Notre Dame softball team (12-6) continues its 2004 season in Tallahassee, Fla., this weekend, facing #4/5 Florida State, then taking part in the Seminole Classic over the weekend. The tournament field includes Florida State, Texas A&M, Central Michigan, Nebraska, St. Joseph, Robert Morris, Michigan, Notre Dame, Troy State, Maryland, Georgia State, Penn State, North Carolina, Florida A&M and Saint Louis.

The tournament is set up in similar fashion to the NFCA Leadoff Classic, as the team’s play each other in ‘pools’, then enter bracket play late Saturday and Sunday. Notre Dame could face any combination of the participating teams in bracket play.

Gametracker will be available vs. Florida State:

In conjunction with the Florida State website, will offer Gametracker on Thursday when Notre Dame matches up with #4/5 Florida State. Gametracker provides live statistics, boxscores and play by play (updated after each play in real time) for free. To find the Gametracker link, go to the main page, scroll down the right side of the page to the correct game and click on the Gametracker link.

The Florida State Invitational field:

A quick look at Notre Dame’s competition in the Florida State Invitational this weekend, plus Thursday’s match up with the Seminoles-

Florida State: The Seminoles are among the hottest teams in the country, winning nine of their last 11 games and are 22-3 overall this season … FSU has defeated four top 25 teams during that stretch … Jessica Van der Linden leads the offense with a .353 average and 19 RBI … the Seminoles have seven hitters with over 10 RBI so far this season … Van der Linden also is a force in the pitching circle, boasting a 0.34 ERA, 11-2 record and 149 strikeouts in 82.0 IP … Thursday will mark the fourth meeting between the Irish and Seminoles, with FSU leading the all-time series 2-1 … Notre Dame defeated ninth-ranked FSU 1-0 in 1996 in Tallahassee.

Michigan: The Irish and Wolverines will be meeting for the 11th time on Friday … Michigan leads the all-time series 6-4, including a 5-3 win in the NCAA Region VII Tournament last season to eliminate the Irish from postseason play … Notre Dame’s last win in the series came in 1999, a 1-0 victory over the fifth-ranked Wolverines … Jessica Merchant has paced UM’s offense this season, hitting .319 with six home runs and 14 RBI … the pitching duties have been split by Nicole Motycka (6-3, 1.01 ERA) and Jennie Ritter (4-2, 1.06 ERA) … Michigan is 12-5 in 2004.

Troy State: Troy State is 10-9 in 2004 and is hitting .288 as a team … Bonnie Belin paces the offense with a .412 batting average and 13 RBI … Tamara Howren also is hitting the ball well (.379) with five home runs and 21 RBI … Laine Harcourt has seen the most action in the pitching circle (60.1 IP), posting a 4-5 record and 3.73 ERA … Notre Dame and Troy State will be meeting for the first time.

Georgia State: Georgia State enters this weekend’s tournament with a 6-6 record … the Irish and Panthers will be meeting for the first time … Georgia State is led on offense by Candace Jones (.393) and Sara Berzofsky (.265, 7 RBI) … Andrea McNary is the staff ace with a 1.20 ERA in 41.0 IP.

Maryland: Maryland enters this weekend’s tournament with an 8-7 record … Keri Lounge is hitting .391 this season with 11 RBI … the Terrapins utilize four pitchers on a regular basis, but Jessica Aditays has seen the most innings (42.0) with a 4-4 record and 2.33 ERA … the Irish and Terrapins will be meeting for the third time … Notre Dame won the previous two meetings, the most recent a 4-1 victory over Maryland in the Holiday Inn Invitational (@ South Florida) during the 2001 season.

Last weekend:

Notre Dame experienced a bad day and a good day at the FAU/Worth Invitational, falling flat on the first day of the tournament vs. Florida International (2-1 loss) and Massachusetts (4-2 loss), but rebounding to shut out North Carolina and Florida Atlantic by identical scores of 2-0 … Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein both tossed complete game shutouts on Sunday, with Booth ending up one hit away from her first career perfect game.

Notre Dame matchup with #19/19 Nebraska on April 12 to be shown nationally on CSTV:

The University of Notre Dame will travel to Lincoln, Neb., to face the Cornhuskers for the third time this season – and College Sports Television (CSTV) will televise the game live across the country. The contest on Monday, April 12, will be part of CSTV Softball, which will show eight regular-season games this season, in addition to the Big Ten and Conference USA post season tournaments.

In addition to its softball telecasts, College Sports TV will cover the sport extensively within its CSTV Primetime and CSTV Scoreboard live studio shows originating from the CSTV Fieldhouse in New York. Daily coverage of women’s softball will also be found on

CSTV, the first 24-hour college sports network, is available to more than 15 million homes nationally on cable and satellite. The network is available on Time Warner, Adelphia and Insight cable systems, among others, and is also available on DirecTV (channel 610). For information on CSTV availability in particular markets, consumers can log on to or call their cable or satellite operator.

Irish have knocked off three of six ranked opponents this season:

The victories over #24/24 CS Fullerton and #14/14 Nebraska last weekend give the Irish three wins over ranked opponents this season … Notre Dame knocked off #8/8 Nebraska 6-4 on Feb. 14 at the UNLV Classic … those three wins in the first 14 games of the season are the second-best total in school history, behind the four by the 2001 team (#4 Washington, #18 South Carolina, #24 CS Northridge twice) and tied with the 1995 (#14 Texas A&M, #18 Illinois-Chicago, #21 Oklahoma State) and 1994 (#10 Michigan, #25 Minnesota, #5 CS Fullerton) squads … three of Notre Dame’s four losses this season came to ranked teams, while the fourth (Pacific) is currently ranked #14/18 … the other Irish setbacks and at the hands of #2/3 California, #8/8 Stanford and #6/6 Georgia.

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.

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 four weeks ago, Notre Dame 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.

Scouting the Irish:

For the first time in four years, the Notre Dame softball team will be forced to develop a new identity. The graduation of four starting seniors, with three of the starters having been in the line up for four years and the fourth for three, means that head coach Deanna Gumpf will be writing a new infield on her lineup card for the first time in four years.

Second team all-BIG EAST catcher Mallorie Lenn (.238, 6 HR, 25 RBI in ’03) returns behind the plate and will catch a largely intact pitching staff – but the other four infield positions will feature new players. A two year starter in leftfield, junior Liz Hartmann (.236, 9 HR, 29 RBI) comes in a few steps to take over third base. Sophomore Sara Schoonaert (5-15, 1 RBI) will be the shortstop, freshman Stephanie Brown at second base and sophomore Meagan Ruthrauff (.310, 4 HR, 27 RBI) will be at first.

While the infield might take awhile to come together this season, the outfield should be both a defensive and offensive strength. Junior Megan Ciolli (.356, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 12 SB) will be the anchor in centerfield, beginning her second season as the starter in that position after starting in rightfield her rookie season. On Ciolli’s right will be senior Nicole deFau (.271, 1 HR, 5 RBI) in leftfield – who split time with sophomore Kellie Middleton (.222, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 15 SB) last year in rightfield. Middleton returns to start in rightfield for 2004.

Off the bench, Notre Dame will receive catching relief from two freshmen – Carissa Jaquish and Gessica Hufnagle. Jaquish also is among the leading candidates at DP. Junior Nicole Wicks, a transfer from Washington, will back up the interior infield positions, all the outfield positions and be among the first options for a pinch runner. Freshman Kenya Fuemmeler can also play the outfield as well as relief pitch.

The pitching staff should prove to be a strength this season for the Irish. Sophomore Heather Booth (21-10, 1.93 ERA) returns from her BIG EAST Rookie of the Year performance a year ago to lead the staff, though junior Steffany Stenglein (10-4) looks to be regaining her freshman form after battling through an injury in 2003. The always reliable Carrie Wisen (7-3, 1.67 ERA) will be the first option for relief – as well as seeing some time at DP. As mentioned, Fuemmeler will give Gumpf another arm to call on in the bullpen as well.

Notre Dame will face a loaded early season schedule:

In what has developed into a yearly tradition for the Fighting Irish softball team, Notre Dame will hit the road for the first five weekends of the season to face several of the top teams in the nation. According to the latest national polls, over the first five weekends of the season Notre Dame will face (or have faced) nine ranked teams ( Softball ranking first, followed by USA Today/NFCA):

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

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

* #11/12 Michigan (March 12)

* #8/8 Nebraska (W, 6-4), now ranked #19/19

#14/14 Nebraska (W, 1-0), now ranked #19/19

* #8/8 Stanford (L, 2-4), now ranked #9/11

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

* #4/6 Florida State, (March 11)

* NR Pacific (L, 1-12), now ranked #14/17

* NR Georgia Tech (W, 2-1), now ranked #24/24

The Irish also will take on DePaul later on this season at Ivy Field (April 27) and have the opportunity to play more ranked teams during bracket play at the Seminole Classic.

While a tough schedule might affect Notre Dame’s early season record, it has paid huge dividends over the last two years when the Irish return to the Midwest for conference and regional play. The 2002 season saw Notre Dame open up 8-12 while facing eight ranked teams in the first two months of the season. Notre Dame responded by winning 34 of its next 37 games and the BIG EAST Championship entering the NCAA regional. The 2003 season followed a similar pattern, as Notre Dame found itself facing six ranked teams and holding a 10-10 record on March 14. The Irish bounced back with a 20-game win streak and 26 win in its last 30 games entering the NCAA regional.

Closer look at the Irish pitching staff:

Notre Dame should be able to lean on two strengths this season, a quick and athletic outfield and a seasoned and talented pitching staff. Junior Carrie Wisen and Steffany Stenglein, along with sophomore Heather Booth, represent 362 of 373 innings pitched for Notre Dame last season.

Booth won the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year award by going 21-10 with a 1.93 ERA as the number one starter in ’03. Stenglein, who was recovering from off season surgery which curtailed her preseason workouts, found it difficult to reach the level of her freshman season (in which she also won 21 games). Wisen was her usual steady self in the bullpen, posting a 7-3 record with a 1.67 ERA and two saves.

Stenglein is back to full strength and poised for a break out season, while Booth and Wisen give Notre Dame a strong pitching staff to work with. Add in talented freshman Kenya Fuemmeler (the career prep strikeout record holder in Missouri) and the Notre Dame pitching staff looks to be among the best in the BIG EAST Conference.

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 94-40 (.701) 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.

Megan Ciolli named to USA Softball Player of the Year watch list:

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and USA Softball have announced their initial watch list for the third-annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award and Notre Dame junior Megan Ciolli (Terre Haute, Ind.) was one of the 40 players to make the list.

Ciolli will embrace a new role as team leader for the Irish this season, which begins next weekend (Feb. 13) at the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. The Irish have radically shifted from a senior laden team to one of the youngest squads in the Midwest.

A starter since she arrived on campus three years ago, Ciolli boasts a .350 career average – hitting either first or second in the Irish line up. A three-tool player able to bunt, slap and hit for power, the junior boasts 131 hits in her career, eight home runs and 48 RBI. She also has stolen 23 bases in her career and her .350 career average puts her in the top five all-time at Notre Dame.

So far in 2004, Ciolli has paced the Irish offense with a team-high 18 hits (.419 average), six stolen bases (in six attempts) and has contributed three outfield assists.

Notre Dame picked to win its third-straight BIG EAST title:

Notre Dame has been picked to finish first in the BIG EAST Conference for the 2004 season, as voted on by the league coaches and released by the conference office. The Irish garnered seven of 11 first place votes and 95 total points in the poll, followed by Villanova (83 points) and Boston College (74).

Notre Dame won a share of the BIG EAST regular-season crown for the seventh-straight season last year, finishing the conference schedule with a 14-3 record. Led by conference player of the year Andrea Loman, Notre Dame swept through the BIG EAST Championship, scoring 21 runs in three games and earning the title on a walk off home run by Loman in the ninth inning against Villanova.

2004 BIG EAST Preseason Softball Coaches Poll

1. Notre Dame, 95 points

2. Villanova, 83 points

3. Boston College, 74 points

4. Seton Hall, 70 points

5. St. John’s, 55 points

Virginia Tech, 55 points

7. Syracuse, 50 points

8. Connecticut, 49 points

9. Rutgers, 43 points

10. Pittsburgh, 20 points

11. Providence, 12 points

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.

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 in the Division II National Championship (hosted by the city of Roanoke) dictated a return to campus sites for the BIG EAST Championship. The conference title will be on the line during play beginning Thursday, May 13 and continues until Saturday, May 15, with a raindate on Sunday, May 16.