Stephanie Brown was named to the Buckeye Invitational All-Tournament Team last weekend.

Softball Welcomes Western Michigan For Home Opener Wednesday

March 22, 2005

Complete Release in PDF Format
spacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader

Notre Dame vs. Western Michigan

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 (4:00 p.m.)

* – First 250 fans will receive a schedule t-shirt

• Live Audio Coverage Available For College Sports Pass Subscribers On

•’s Gametracker will also be available on Wednesday and for all Notre Dame home games this season.

Home opener set for Wednesday: The University of Notre Dame softball team (13-8) will appear at Ivy Field for the first time this season on Wednesday afternoon when the Irish welcome Western Michigan (5-12) to campus for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Previously released as a single game, Wednesday’s matchup was moved to a doubleheader due to several rainouts on the Notre Dame schedule this season.

The Irish enter Wednesday’s game having won eight of its last 10 games with only a seventh-inning home run by Marshall breaking the team’s five-game win streak.

Notre Dame is 22-7 (.758) all-time on its home opening day with many of those dates played as doubleheaders. The Irish have failed to win their first home game of the season just twice in the program’s history – in the 1997 season the Irish were swept in a doubleheader by Boston College and in 2003 #22 Northwestern took two from the Irish. All of its other loses during a home opener doubleheader have come in the second game.

Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf is 3-2 (.600) in home openers at Ivy Field. The Irish defeated UIC in 2002, lost two to #22 Northwestern in 2003 and swept a doubleheader from Eastern Michigan last season.

Notre Dame quick hits: What you need to know about the Irish for Wednesday’s doubleheader:

• Notre Dame has already lost at least six games to inclement weather this season – including rainouts in San Diego, Calif., and in Hawaii.

• Senior Steffany Stenglein is posting All-American type strikeout numbers this season. The righthander has sat down 83 batters in 58 innings, a ratio of 10 Ks per seven innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .165 against the 2004 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year.

Series history vs. opponents and team analysis:

Western Michigan – The Broncos are 5-12 in 2005 and are coming off a doubleheader split at Indiana on March 19. Western Michigan is led on offense by Katie Niemi, who is batting .327 this season with five RBI. Amanda Heckaman represents the power in the Bronco lineup with three home runs and eight RBI.

Notre Dame will most likely see Tricia Vanderslik (2-7, 3.48 ERA) and Kyla Sullivan (3-5. 4.11 ERA) in the pitcher’s circle.

The Irish and Broncos will be meeting for the 20th and 21st time on Wednesday. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 14-5 (including 6-2 at Ivy Field) and have won seven of the last eight meetings. Notre Dame and WMU split a doubleheader in Kalamazoo, Mich., last season.

Western Michigan also features some local Northern Indiana players on its 2005 roster. Freshman IF/OF Molly Mroczek (South Bend, Ind.), sophomore Amanda Heckaman (South Bend, Ind.) and sophomore Corey Andrzejewski (Mishawaka, Ind.) all hail from the Notre Dame campus area.

Snapshot of the Irish: Notre Dame has endeavored to find its 2005 identity this season, but might have found a successful formula over Spring Break. After struggling through the four weeks of the season with silent bats, the Irish offense exploded during Hawaii’s Spring Fling for 45 hits and 25 runs. The offensive production was, hopefully, a sign of good things to come for the team as they return to the Midwest for regional and BIG EAST Conference action.

Senior team captain Megan Ciolli (.369, 24 H, 5 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 11 SB) has led from the front since the team took the field this season. Juniors Kellie Middleton (.308, 20 H, 5 RBI, 10 SB) and Meagan Ruthrauff (.322, 4 2B, 13 RBI) have shown signs of giving Ciolli dedicated support in the Irish lineup.

The pitching staff has been somewhat steady for the Irish this season. Junior Heather Booth (8-4, 1.50 ERA) has turned in just one sub-par start (vs. Pacific) and has two shutouts and eight complete games to her credit. Senior Steffany Stenglein (2.05 ERA, 83 K in 58.0 IP) has been untouchable early in games, but has fallen off after the sixth inning and has allowed seven home runs this season. In the end, opponents are hitting just .165 against Stenglein in 2005.

Notre Dame’s defense, unsure of itself early in the season, has benefitted from one positional move. Junior Sara Schoonaert has taken over at shortstop and performed well, while freshman Katie Laing has moved over to second base and been steady.

Liz Hartmann named BIG EAST Player of the Week: Senior third base Liz Hartmann was named the Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week after leading Notre Dame to a 2-1 record at the Buckeye Invitational last weekend. Hartmann, who earns the first conference weekly award of her career, finished seven for 10 in the tournament with seven RBI and a game-winning three-run home run against Eastern Michigan.

The Novato, Calif., native raised her batting average over .60 points during the weekend flourish, as she is now hitting .305 in 2005. The owner of several late-inning home runs during her career, she delivered again against Eastern Michigan on Sunday. With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the seventh, she drilled the first pitch she was offered deep over the leftfield fence for a three-run home run which proved to be the game winner. She has now hit five game-winning round trippers in the sixth inning or later during her career, including two against nationally-ranked Nebraska (in 2002 and 2004).

Her seventh-inning home run was her third extra-base hit of the game against Eastern Michigan, as she also doubled twice in two earlier at bats in the game. She also was two for three with three RBI against Oakland, just missing a home run which ricocheted back onto the field after hitting the top of the fence. Her two-RBI double in the fifth inning ending the game against Oakland on collegiate softball’s mercy rule.

In the tournament opener against Marshall (a 7-4 Irish loss), Hartmann was two for three with an RBI double – which tied the game in the sixth inning before Marshall hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to decide the contest.

A four-year starter for Notre Dame in leftfield (2002, 2003) and at third base (2004, 2005), Hartmann was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2004 and was named the team’s MVP last season. She has driven in 107 runs during her career (eighth on the all-time list) and launched 25 career home runs (fifth on the all-time list).

Hartmann’s shared this week’s BIG EAST award with Seton Hall’s D’arcy Djakalovic.

Brown earns Buckeye Invitational all-tourney honors: In addition to BIG EAST Player of the Week Liz Hartmann, sophomore Stephanie Brown was named to the Buckeye Invitational all-tournament team last weekend. The Irish leadoff hitter was five for 11 in the tournament with two doubles, two runs scored and a stolen base. She has raised her season average to .290 with an on-base percentage of .371.

Stenglein posting eye-popping strikeout numbers: With 19 strikeouts last weekend during the Buckeye Invitational, senior Steffany Stenglein is fast approaching the 600-strikeout barrier – after just reaching 500 strikeouts this season. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native has struck out 83 batters in 58 innings this season, a ratio of 10 Ks per 7.0 innings pitched. She has reached double-digit strikeouts three times this season and has posted at least nine in her last three starting appearances. She currently has 563 career strikeouts and is on pace to become the third Irish player to reach 600 Ks in her career.

Ciolli becomes first Notre Dame NPF draft selection: National Pro Fastpitch announced its 2005 Senior College Player Selections last week and current Irish senior Megan Ciolli was selected by the Chicago Bandits with the first selection of the second round (seventh overall).

Due to NCAA regulations, an active college player may not sign with her respective franchise until their 2005 college season is finished. Senior selections expire on July 15, 2005.

The NPF officially announced that it will enter the 2005 season with six teams – the Akron Racers, Arizona Heat, Chicago Bandits, New England Riptide, NY/NJ Juggernaut and the Texas Thunder. The California Sunbirds will remain part of the league but will suspend play in 2005 to restructure the franchise.

The Bandits will be competing in their first season in the NPF and have already signed Olympic Team standout Jennie Finch. The season will run through June 2 through August 28 and will consist of a 48-game regular season schedule for each team, an all-star game, playoffs and a Championship Series. NPF continues to be the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball and has recently developed a new alliance with ASA/USA Softball and the International Softball Federation (ISF). This alliance will help promote international play by inviting teams from China, China Taipei, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and Venezuela to play against NPF teams. A finalized schedule will be released in March.

Irish pitchers reach strikeout milestones in 2005: Senior Steffany Stenglein and junior Heather Booth have both reach strikeout milestones over the first six weeks of the `05 season. Stenglein struck out 11 batters against Utah on Feb. 18, becoming the third Irish pitcher to record 500 strikeouts in a career.

Stenglein currently has 563, trailing Terri Kobata (907) and Jennifer Sharron (728) on the all-time list.

Booth posted her 400th career strikeout against #3/4 UCLA in a hard-fought 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Feb. 25. She currently has 437 Ks to her credit and is the fourth Irish pitcher to clear that objective – joining Stenglein, Sharron and Kobata.

Ruthrauff looking for 100 career RBI: After senior Liz Hartmann cleared the 100-RBI barrier at Hawai’i’s Spring Fling two weeks ago, junior Meagan Ruthrauff is looking to join her teammate in the 100-RBI club at Notre Dame.

Hartmann became the eighth player to post 100 RBI in a career – and Ruthrauff will become the ninth some time this season. Ruthrauff currently has 94 RBI. She drove in 54 last season, becoming just the second Irish player to post over 50 RBI in a single season.

Notre Dame earns second tournament title of 2005 at Hawaii Spring Fling: Notre Dame’s 4-0 run through an abbreviated Spring Fling tournament at the University of Hawaii earned the team its second tournament title of the year. Combined with the GRU Classic (Feb. 10-13 – see note that follows) Notre Dame joins the `01 team as the only Irish team to claim two early-season tournament titles (the `01 squad won the Holiday Inn Invitational at South Florida and the Frost Tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn.).

Notre Dame claims first initial weekend tournament title since 2001: Notre Dame’s three consecutive victories in the GRU Classic (Feb. 10-13) in Gainesville, Fla., pushed the Irish through to the tournament title. The first weekend tournament victory marks the first for Notre Dame since the 2001 season, when the Irish swept through the Holiday Inn Invitational at South Florida with a 5-0 record.

Irish own three wins over ranked teams in 2005: Notre Dame is 13-8 this season and three of those 13 victories have come against ranked teams. The Irish defeated #21 South Florida and #19 Florida on their first weekend out (Feb. 12-13), then knocked off #5/6 Tennessee last weekend in Palm Springs.

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 most ranked wins for the Irish came in 2001, when the team defeated eight teams ranked in the national top 25.

First back-to-back ranked wins since 2001: Notre Dame’s victories over #21 South Florida (5-1) on Saturday, Feb. 12, and #19 Florida on Sunday, Feb. 13, marked the first time since the 2001 season the Irish have posted two consecutive wins over a ranked opponents.

During the 2001 season, the Irish swept a doubleheader from #10 DePaul on April 19. To find the last time the Irish defeated two consecutive different ranked teams, you will fall back to 2000, when Notre Dame defeated #16 La.-Lafayette and #6 Oklahoma on March 18 at the Kia Klassic.

Ciolli looks to continue her climb up the career charts: Along with classmate Liz Hartmann, 2004 third-team All-American and BIG EAST Player of the Year Megan Ciolli has been a three-year starter since stepping on campus in 2001-02. Batting at the top of the lineup for a majority of her career (second freshman season, first sophomore season, third junior season), Ciolli has established herself as one of the top offensive players to ever don an Irish uniform.

Her current career rankings include second in batting average (.367 entering Wednesday’s doubleheader), fourth in stolen bases, sixth in runs scored, seventh in hits, ninth in home runs and seventh in triples. She also is poised to break into the top 10 in games played and doubles this season and is on pace to break the hits and stolen base records this season. A complete list of current Notre Dame players threatening career records appear on page eight of this notes package.

Ciolli on USA Softball Player of the Year watchlist: The Amateur Softball Association (ASA), the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, has announced its initial watch list for the fourth-annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Senior centerfielder Megan Ciolli (Terre Haute, Ind.) was among the 40 players named to the list, which will eventually be pared down to proclaim the collegiate player of the year in 2005.

Considered the Heisman Trophy of collegiate softball, past winners of the award include UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman, Texas pitcher Cat Osterman and Florida State’s Jessica Van der Linden.

Ciolli appears on the initial watch list for the second consecutive season in 2005. The catalyst for the Irish offense in 2004, Ciolli hit a team-high .397 with 81 hits, 23 RBI and 20 stolen bases. The ’04 BIG EAST Player of the Year, Ciolli compiled an outstanding offensive season, finishing third on the all-time single season list for hits and second for stolen bases. Her .366 career batting average currently ranks third all-time at Notre Dame.

Named team captain by a vote of her teammates earlier this semester, Ciolli will continue her climb up the career offensive charts in 2005. She currently ranks seventh all-time in career hits (232 – and should become the all-time leader this season), ninth in home runs (12) and fourth in stolen bases (51).

A list of 25 candidates for the award will be released on April 5, with another list of 10 following on May 10. Three finalists will be announced on May 31 with the winner proclaimed at the 2005 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

South Bend plays host to the 2005 BIG EAST Championship: For the third time in the last four years, the BIG EAST Softball Championship will be held in a neutral/off-campus site in 2005.

After Salem, Va., served as the tournament’s site in 2002 and 2003, the City of South Bend, Ind., will welcome the 2005 BIG EAST Softball Championship to the Belleville Complex on the far west side of town.

The Belleville Complex is one of the best softball-only facilities in Indiana and served as host to over 3,000 fans when the U.S. Olympic Team played an exhibition doubleheader in July of 2005.

Irish picked to finish first in the BIG EAST: The University of Notre Dame softball team has been picked to win its 10th consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular-season crown by the league’s coaches, as announced by the conference on office on Tuesday, Jan. 11. The conference’s 10 head coaches rank every team except their own, with Notre Dame garnering all nine possible first place votes.

The Irish will return a veteran team in 2005, led by ’04 All-American senior CF Megan Ciolli and two of the top pitchers in the nation – senior Steffany Stenglein and junior Heather Booth. Ciolli was named the ’04 BIG EAST Player of the Year while Stenglein earned the league’s pitcher of the year award last season.

Head coach Deanna Gumpf’s team graduated just one player last season, first-team all-BIG EAST pick OF Nicole deFau. The Irish are expected to be back at full strength, however, with senior 3B Liz Hartmann, junior C Mallorie Lenn and junior OF Kellie Middleton all back to full strength after dealing with an assortment of injuries over the past offseason.

Seton Hall, who bested the Irish in four games late last season, was picked to finish second in the league, followed by Villanova, Boston College and Syracuse.

The league falls to 10 teams in 2005 with the movement of Virginia Tech to the ACC. The conference will bounce back in 2006, however, as it welcomes DePaul, Louisville and South Florida into the league – three of the top programs in the nation.

California girls: While three trips to the west coast gives the Irish an opportunity to face several of the top teams in the country this season, Notre Dame’s appearances in San Diego (Feb. 18-20), Palm Springs (Feb. 25-27) and the Los Angeles area (March 6-7) also will provide the seven California natives on the team will a chance to play in their home state.

Heather Booth (Riverside), Liz Hartmann (Novato), Carissa Jaquish (Highland), Mallorie Lenn (Garden Grove), Meagan Ruthrauff (La Mirada), Steffany Stenglein (Huntington Beach) and Carrie Wisen (Fullerton) are the seven California natives on the `05 Irish roster.

Incoming freshman class of 2006: University of Notre Dame head softball coach Deanna Gumpf has announced the signing of seven student-athletes to national letters of intent last week, landing one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.

Brittney Bargar (Corona, Calif.), Christine Farrell (La Habra, Calif.), Erin Glasco (Johnston City, Ill.), Linda Kohan (Westminster, Calif.), Alexandra Kotcheff (Beverly Hills, Calif.), Stephanie Mola (Naples, Fla.) and Beth Northway (Kentwood, Mich.) will make up the class of 2009.

“This is one of the best recruiting classes I have seen in my career and I feel it is the best in the country,” Gumpf says of the group.

“The quality and diversity of this class is second to none. The entire staff is excited to have this group of players join the Notre Dame family.”

The class hails from across the country with four California natives, plus players from Michigan, Illinois and Florida. The group also is made up of two pitchers (Bargar, Farrell), a catcher (Glasco), an infielder (Kohan), two outfielders (Kotcheff, Mola) and an infielder/outfielder (Northway) – giving the class excellent balance at all positions.

BIG EAST loses one team before gaining three in 2006: With the shift of Virginia Tech to the ACC for the `05 season, the BIG EAST drops down to 10 teams this season before expanding to 13 teams next year when DePaul, South Florida and Louisville join the league (Marquette and Cincinnati to do not compete in softball).

With the addition of three traditional powers, the BIG EAST Conference will quickly become one of the best softball conferences east of the Mississippi.

High school teammates: Sophomore Stephanie Brown and freshman Katie Laing are just the third combination of high school teammates to play for the Irish since the program began. Both Brown and Laing played for Corona del Sol in the Chandler, Ariz., area during their prep careers. Debbie Boulac and Stephanie Pinter, both from South Bend, Ind., and St. Joseph High School, played together from 1990-93. Jennifer Sharron and Jessica Sharron, the first second set of sisters to play for the Irish, were on the Notre Dame roster together in 2000 and 2001.

Sisters Debbie and Diane Boulac both played for the Irish, but were not on the same team together.

Schedule adjustment: The Notre Dame – Loyola-Chicago game, scheduled for March 31, has been previously released as a home game for the Irish. The game will be played in Chicago on Loyola’s campus.

Schedule adjustment II: There has been another shift in the Irish schedule. The previously scheduled home game vs. Illinois-Chicago on April 14 has been shifted to an away contest at UIC for 7 p.m. The road game at UIC on April 27 has been cancelled.

Notre Dame Nabs Top Spot In Directors’ Cup Standings: Notre Dame stands first in the final set of fall sports standings released in the 2004-05 United States Sports Academy Division I Directors’ Cup all-sports competition sponsored by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (formerly known as Sears Directors’ Cup). This marks the first time in the 12-year history of the all-sports program that Notre Dame has ranked number one, surpassing a second ranking in the 2004-05 second set of fall standings.

Fall NCAA competition earned the Irish 337 points based on their NCAA title in women’s soccer (100 points), their fourth-place finish in women’s cross country (80), 11th-place finish in men’s cross country (57) and second-round NCAA appearances in men’s soccer and volleyball (50 each).

Michigan (333 points) stands second, followed by Stanford (332), Duke (327) and UCLA (297).

The current standings include results from NCAA fall competition in volleyball, field hockey, men’s water polo, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s soccer and football. In previous years in which the Directors’ Cup competition has been held, Notre Dame has finished 11th in ’93-’94, 30th in ’94-’95, 11th in ’95-’96, 14th in ’96-’97, 31st in ’97-’98, 25th in ’98-99, 21st in ’99-’00, 11th in ’00-’01, 13th in ’01-02 and ’02-’03 and 19th in ’03-’04.