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    Notre Dame to Host UConn and St. John's

    Softball faces Indiana and Butler in non-conference play.

    April 13, 1998

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame's softball team joined Villanova in first place in the BIG EAST South Division with two wins over Seton Hall on Sat., April 11, after dropping a doubleheader to Purdue on Wed., April 9. Seton Hall and Notre Dame were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Wed., April 9, and a single game on Saturday, but rain on Wednesday shortened the three-game series into a Saturday doubleheader. The Irish travel to Indiana for a doubleheader on Tues., April 14, and play host to Butler on Thurs., April 16, before BIG EAST opponents Connecticut and St. John's travel to Ivy Field for weekend doubleheaders.

    Week in Preview: Notre Dame will travel to Indiana for the first time since playing in its first NCAA regional in 1994 when the fourth-seeded Irish upset the top-seeded Hoosiers 3-0 in 12 innings in the second game of the regional before being eliminated by Indiana. The Hoosiers enter the game with a 9-23-1 record, including a 3-8-1 mark at home. Senior Monica Armendarez boasts an amazing .724 slugging percentage and a .367 batting average with eight doubles and nine home runs. Teresa Martinez (6-11, 2.39 ERA) and Jennifer Kniptash (3-11, 4.63 ERA) have carried the load on the mound for Indiana, which leads the all-time series with Notre Dame 9-5, including a 4-2 advantage in Bloomington.

    Former Midwestern Collegiate Conference rival Butler travels to Ivy Field on Thurs., April 16 for a doubleheader. The Irish lead the all-time series with the Bulldogs 20-2 and have won the last 12 meetings since a 2-1 loss in 1992.

    Notre Dame then welcomes BIG EAST North Division opponents Connecticut and St. John's to Ivy Field for cross-divisional doubleheaders on Sat., April 18 and Sun., April 19. The Huskies are currently 19-12-1 and in second place in the North Division with a 5-2 record before a midweek three-game series with leader Boston College. Notre Dame leads the series 5-4 and is 2-0 at home against the Huskies, who are the top hitting team in the BIG EAST with a .337 batting average in conference games. The Irish have won all four meetings with the Red Storm who are currently in third place in the North Division at 5-5, 12-17-1 overall. St. John's pitching staff owns a 1.78 ERA in conference games, the second-best mark in the BIG EAST.

    Week in Review: Freshmen pitchers Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) and Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) threw complete-game one-hit shutouts to lead the Irish to 7-0 and 8-0 wins over Seton Hall on Sat., April 11. Sharron faced just three batters over the seven-inning minimum in the first game as she allowed just one hit and struck out six Pirates to improve to 8-6. Marlena Kotynski singled in the fourth inning for Seton Hall's only hit. Jenn Giampaolo (San Marino, Calif.) started Notre Dame off in the first as she walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Alkire. Giampaolo drove in the second run with a triple to score Danielle Klayman (San Diego, Calif.) for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Back-to-back, two-out doubles by Dawn Cunningham (Bethalto, Ill.) and Lisa Tully (Garden Grove, Calif.) made it 3-0 in the fourth inning. Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.) helped the Irish break open the game in the fifth inning with a two-run triple for a 5-0 Irish lead. She then closed out the scoring with a two-run single in the sixth inning.

    In game two, Alkire came within three outs of a no-hitter, allowing only Shye Nakabayashi an infield single in the top of the sixth. She finished with a one-hitter with two walks and two strike outs and faced three-batters over the six-inning minimum. Giampaolo sparked the Irish once again in the second game with a triple to lead off the first, followed by an RBI single by Alkire. Klayman later made it 2-0 in the first with a single to send home Amy Laboe (Monroe, Mich.), who had walked to reach base. Notre Dame built a 5-0 lead in the fourth as the Irish took advantage of two Seton Hall errors to score three runs on three hits. Klayman tripled home Lemire in the fifth and scored an error for a 7-0 lead after five innings. After Nakabayashi broke up Alkire's no-hit bid in the top of the sixth, Lemire ended the game by the eight-run rule with a sacrifice fly to score Laboe in the bottom of the sixth.

    The Irish were shut out of a home doubleheader for the first time in six years as Purdue blanked the Irish 2-0 and 4-0 at Ivy Field on Wed., April 8. Notre Dame was a combined 2-25 with runners on base and 0-16 with runners in scoring position. Sharron went the distance in the first game as she held the Boilermakers to just one earned run and four hits. Purdue scored the game's only runs on a bases-loaded double in the fourth inning. The Irish wasted a double in the fifth inning and had runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth but could not get on the board.

    Purdue scored the only runs it would need in the second game with three in the top of the first inning off starter Angela Bessolo (Lakewood, Calif.). The junior was knocked out of the game after recording just two outs and allowing three runs on four hits. Kelly Nichols (Vancouver, Wash.) pitched the final six and two-third innings and held Purdue to one run on four hits. Laboe, Sarah Mathison (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) and Klayman each had singles for the Irish in the second game.

    Nichols Ups NCAA Record: Senior Kelly Nichols recorded her third and fourth saves of the season against Providence and Boston College, upping her NCAA record for career saves to 22. Nichols entered the season with 18 career saves and tied the saves record in the 5-2 win over South Carolina and broke it in the 5-4 win over Rutgers. Cal Poly Pomona's Lori Thompson saved 19 games from 1987-89 for the previous record. Nichols led the nation in saves with eight in each of her first two years at Notre Dame and is currently tied for second with four in 1998 according to the latest NCAA statistics.

    Home Sweet Home: After Tuesday's doubleheader at Indiana, the Irish will play 11 of their next 15 games at Ivy Field, not including any BIG EAST championship games should Notre Dame qualify. The Irish played seven straight BIG EAST games on the road and finished 4-3 in those games before winning two at home against Seton Hall. Notre Dame is 7-2 at home in 1998 with an all-time record of 123-43-2 (.738). The Irish have a 23-4 record at Ivy Field in BIG EAST games since 1996.

    Sharron Shines: Freshman pitcher Jennifer Sharron, the first lefthanded pitcher in Irish history, led the staff with 14 innings pitched in two complete games last week and allowed just one earned run to Purdue in a 2-0 loss. Opposing batters hit just .102 against her as she gave up just five hits all week. Against Seton Hall, the Pirates managed just a fourth-inning single as they went 1-23 against Sharron, her second BIG EAST one-hit shutout in eight days. She faced three batters over the seven-inning minimum against Seton Hall and walked just one of the 54 batters she faced last week. Sharron, who has pitched in 100 innings so far in '98, leads the team with eight wins overall and has the second-best ERA (1.30) in conference games and the best ERA among BIG EAST freshmen. In her last three BIG EAST starts, she is 2-0 in 20.1 innings pitched with a 0.34 ERA and 15 strikeouts.

    Irish Earn BIG EAST Honors: For the first time this season, the BIG EAST has honored the Irish with a player and rookie of the week selection. Jenn Giampaolo was named BIG EAST player of the week after she hit 4-7 (.571) with a double and two triples in the wins over Seton Hall. She also scored four runs and recorded two RBI. Danielle Klayman earned BIG EAST rookie of the week honors after batting 7-13 (.538) in four games last week. Against Seton Hall, she went 4-7 with a triple, three runs scored and two RBI. Her .370 overall and .556 BIG EAST batting average are tops on the team.

    Head Coach Liz Miller: Liz Miller has compiled a 220-112 (.663) record in her five-plus seasons at Notre Dame since 1993. Miller, with a career record of 761-254 (.750) led the Irish to a school-record 48 wins in 1996 and to their third consecutive NCAA appearance that same year. She was named the 1996 BIG EAST coach of the year in her first year in the conference and led Notre Dame to a 35-5 record and two BIG EAST South Division titles in her first two years in the conference. Miller won her 700th-career game on April 27, 1996, at the time becoming one of only five collegiate softball coaches to have won 700 career games. Miller began her coaching career at Lake Michigan Community College where she posted a 541-142 (.792).

    Irish Softball Enters 10th Season: The 1998 season marks the 10th season of Notre Dame softball since its first year in 1989. The program compiled a 335-183-2 (.646) record in the first nine years, an average of 37-20. In the first four years under head coach Brian Boulac from 1989-92, the Irish went 135-90-2, winning the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1990 and 1991. Liz Miller, who served as an assistant to Boulac in 1992, took over in 1993 and has compiled a 200-93 record from 1993-97 with MCC titles in 1993-95 and NCAA appearances in 1994-96.

    Alkire In The Clutch: Freshman Melanie Alkire has quickly become one of Notre Dame's key hitters in the lineup. She has hit in the third spot in the lineup in every game of the season and has hit a team best 15-39 (.385) with runners in scoring position. Alkire also is 3-4 with the bases loaded and 9-12 (.750) with a runner on third and less than two outs. She leads the team with 25 RBI and eight doubles, nearly halfway to the single-season record of 17 doubles. Alkire also has helped the Irish on the mound with a 3-1 record and a save in 32.2 innings pitched.

    Leader Of The Pack: Freshman Lizzy Lemire, who is hitting .283 with an on-base percentage of .342, leads the team with a .524 batting average (11-21) when she leads off an inning. The 11 leadoff hits are second on the team to only the leadoff hitter Jenn Giampaolo (26-62, .419).

    Irish Fixtures: Three Notre Dame players have been fixtures in the lineup, starting all 37 games. Jenn Giampaolo has started every game in center field and in the lead off spot in the lineup. Sophomore Lisa Tully has anchored third base every game and has played 25 games at the ninth spot in the lineup. Freshman Melanie Alkire has batted in the third spot in the lineup but has been the most versatile player on the team. She has started six games as pitcher, one game at first base, 11 games at second base, 11 games at shortstop and 14 games as the designated player.

    BIG EAST Championship Come To Ivy Field: The first ever postseason games will be played at Ivy Field May 2-3, when the 1998 BIG EAST Conference softball championship comes to Notre Dame. The Irish have qualified for the past two championships but have gone 4-4 in those two appearances. Boston College will look to defend its title against the field comprised of the two division winners plus two at-large selections.

    The softball championship will mark the fourth BIG EAST championship held at Notre Dame in the three years since joining the conference in 1995-96. The Irish have won each championship at Notre Dame, winning volleyball in '95, women's soccer in '96 and men's golf in the fall of '97.

    Don't Look Now: Notre Dame's pitching staff has struck out 167 in 982 at bats, including 57 batters who have struck out looking, while Irish hitters have struck out just 59 times total, including 26 looking. Irish hitters are currently striking out just once in every 17 at bats while the opposition has one strikeout for every six at bats.

    USA Today/NFCA Coaches
    Top 25 (April 8)
       Rk.  Team                  Record   Points
       1.   Arizona (25)            39-3   625
       2.   Michigan                29-3   600
       3.   Fresno State            27-4   574
       4.   Washington              26-7   539
       5.   Oklahoma                34-8   526
       6.   South Florida *        47-10   515
       7.   Nebraska                28-8   463
       8.   Oklahoma State *        28-9   420
       9T   Texas                  34-11   413
       9T   Arizona State *        27-11   413
       11   Hawaii *                32-8   341
       12   Stanford                25-8   333
       13.  LSU                     37-6   308
       14.  Missouri               27-10   300
       15.  Florida State          42-13   252
       16.  Minnesota               31-8   238
       17.  Oregon                 31-13   199
       18.  Long Beach State     24-11-1   173
       19.  Texas Tech             38-14   147
       20.  California             23-16   122
       21.  Oregon State *         20-13   105
       22.  Iowa                   19-10   101
       23.  Illinois-Chicago       40-13    92
       24.  USL                     25-8    83
       25.  Cal State Northridge   23-14    66
       * indicates 1998 Notre Dame opponents
    

    BIG EAST Standings (4/13) South Division BIG EAST Overall 1. Notre Dame 6-3 19-18 1. Villanova 6-3 24-12 2. Rutgers 7-4 14-9 4. Seton Hall 0-11 12-16-1

    North Division BIG EAST Overall 1. Boston College 5-1-1 23-6-1 2. Connecticut 5-2 19-12-1 3. St. John's 5-5 12-17-1 4. Providence 2-7-1 13-18-2

    Irish Leaders Batting Danielle Klayman .370 Runs Jenn Giampaolo 23 Slugging Percentage Tara King .450 ERA Kelly Nichols 1.10 Strikeouts Per 7 Innings Angela Bessolo 7.10 Innings Pitched Jennifer Sharron 100.0


     
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