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Softball Will Play Host To Its Final Home Games This Weekend

April 29, 2004

Complete Release in PDF Format, which includes bio updates for each Irish player
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#25 Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech, Friday, April 30, Ivy Field, 4 p.m. (DH)

#25 Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 2, Ivy Field, 11 a.m. (DH)

Irish Quick Facts:

* Notre Dame looks to secure a spot in the BIG EAST Championship this weekend, needing four more points (two victories) to ensure a spot in the four-team tournament.

* The Irish and Hokies will be meeting for the last time as conference members, as Virginia Tech is headed for the ACC next season.

Irish play host to Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh in last home field action of 2004:

The University of Notre Dame softball team (40-14, 12-0) hope to secure a spot in the BIG EAST Championship this weekend, as it plays host to Virginia Tech (34-19, 9-7) on Friday and Pittsburgh (19-28, 3-9) on Sunday. The four games are the last at Ivy Field for the team this season and last appearance for senior Nicole deFau on her home field.

Last week:

Notre Dame moved to 12-0 in the BIG EAST Conference with doubleheader sweeps at Villanova and Rutgers. The four victories pushed the Irish into first place in the conference standings. Notre Dame split a doubleheader with Midwest rival DePaul on Tuesday.

Series history with Virginia Tech:

Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will be meeting for the 10th and 11th time on Friday … the Irish lead the all-time series 8-1 … Friday will mark Virginia Tech’s second and last trip to Ivy Field, as the Hokies will compete in the ACC next season … the teams did not meet last season, as the conference doubleheader was cancelled due to inclement weather … the Irish and Hokies met five times during the 2002 season … Notre Dame swept a home doubleheader 8-0 and 10-0, but lost 8-3 in the first game of the BIG EAST Championship … the Irish rallied back to win two games on Sunday at the conference tournament, defeating Virginia Tech 2-1 and 3-1 to win the championship … Notre Dame is 2-0 against Virginia Tech at Ivy Field.

Virginia Tech team analysis:

The Hokies enter Friday’s games with a 34-19 record and 9-7 mark in the BIG EAST (third place) … Virginia Tech has split its last three conference doubleheaders (vs. St. John’s, vs. Seton Hall, at Providence) … Kelly Brown leads the team in hitting with a .350 average (10 2B, 13 RBI) … Megan Evans provides the power in the lineup with 14 home runs and 47 RBI … the Irish will want to keep Callie Rhodes off the base paths, as she has stolen 30 bases this season … the pitching staff is anchored by the combination of Katie Maynard (14-10, 2.63 ERA, 183 Ks in 167.2 IP) and Rachel Pacheco (13-4, 1.60 ERA, 81 Ks).

Series history with Pittsburgh:

Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will be meeting for the 11th and 12th time on Sunday … the Irish lead the all-time series 10-0 … Notre Dame rallied to defeat Pittsburgh 5-4 in game one last season before winning game two 4-1 … the Irish scored five runs in the top of the seventh to get that game one victory … Notre Dame is 4-0 against Pittsburgh at Ivy Field.

Pittsburgh team analysis:

Pittsburgh will face Syracuse on the road Friday before making the trip to Ivy Field for the doubleheader on Sunday … the Panthers are 19-29 on the season and 3-9 in the BIG EAST Conference (11th place) … Francesca DiMaria leads the Panther offense with a .324 average, five triples and 15 RBI … Notre Dame will most likely see Laura Belardinelli (10-11, 3.57 ERA, 81 Ks) and Meghan Bostick (9-15, 4.49 ERA, 106 Ks) in the pitching circle.

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.

Ruthrauff posting one of the top offensive campaigns in school history:

Sophomore Meagan Ruthrauff, who leads the Irish in home runs (nine) and RBI (46) is compiling one of the top single-season offensive performances in Notre Dame softball history. With at eight games remaining (not counting any possible post season appearances), she is close to appearing in the top five for single-season totals in home runs, RBI and walks.

Jarrah Myers is the single-season home run leader with 13 – Ruthrauff currently has nine, which is good for fourth all-time (Andrea Loman and Liz Hartmann are also fourth with nine).

Melanie Alkire is the single-season RBI leader with 64 – a mighty number that will be hard to match, but Ruthrauff is currently fifth on the all-time list with 46. Meghan Murray and Jarrah Myers sit in fourth place with 47 RBI.

Ruthrauff has matched Jarrah Myers as the single-season BB leader with 30.

Nicole deFau named BIG EAST Player of the Week for the first time in her career:

Senior Nicole deFau, who hit a blistering .588 in five games last week, was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Monday, April 26.

DeFau had the best weekend of the Irish career, helping Notre Dame sweep Villanova (4-0, 2-0) and Rutgers (8-5, 4-2). She hit .643 against conference competition with four RBI, five runs, two doubles and one home run. Her solo shot against Villanova was her second of the season – a new career high for the Southington, Conn., native.

Steffany Stenglein earns third BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week award:

Junior Steffany Stenglein continued her stellar pitching over the last week, taking home three victories and improving her BIG EAST Conference record to 6-0. In 20 innings of work, Stenglein posted 24 strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs. She also struck out 16 batters in her two conference appearances.

Nicole deFau (player of the week) and Stenglein’s awards are the eighth and ninth earned by Notre Dame this season – the most weekly awards of any BIG EAST Conference team. DeFau is the fourth different individual from Notre Dame to be named player of the week (Meagan Ruthauff twice, Megan Ciolli, Nicole Wicks), while Heather Booth has one pitching award. Wicks, Ciolli and deFau all earned weekly honors for the first time in their respective careers.

Stenglein on a role in the pitching circle:

Steffany Stenglein will bring a 7-0 record in her last seven starts into this weekend’s action. Over that stretch, she boasts a 7-0 record, 0.66 ERA, 42 Ks in 42.1 IP, allowed just four earned runs and posted three 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.

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 23 entering this weekend’s action (seven as a freshman, nine as a sophomore, seven 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), 23

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 54 games this season – and have at least eight regular-season games scheduled for the rest of the season. That would give the ’04 Irish 62 games played before any post season contests. 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 54 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:

1996: 30-10

2000: 31-9

2001: 37-3

2003: 29-11

2004: 29-11

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.

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 a loaded early season schedule:

In what has developed into a yearly tradition for the Fighting Irish softball team, Notre Dame 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 faced 11 ranked teams ( Softball ranking first, followed by USA Today/NFCA):

* #2/3 California (L, 1-2) – now ranked #5/4

* #6/6 Georgia, (L, 1-7) – now ranked #10/8

* #11/12 Michigan (L, 0-3) – now ranked #6/6

* #8/8 Nebraska (W, 6-4), now ranked #18/19

* #14/14 Nebraska (W, 1-0), now ranked #13/13

* #8/8 Stanford (L, 2-4), now ranked #7/9

*#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), now ranked #25/24

* NR Georgia Tech (W, 2-1), now ranked #23/NR

* NR Texas A&M, now ranked #24/#23

The Irish also have faced DePaul, Florida Atlantic and Hawaii who have all appeared in the top 25 at some point this season.

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 wins in their last 30 games entering the NCAA regional.

So far in 2004, Notre Dame is 23-5 since returning to the Midwest for most of its games.

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 117-47 (.718) entering this week’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.

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.

Championship Schedule:

Thursday, May 13

Game 1: No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 – 5:00 p.m.

Game 2: No. 1 seed 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.