April 7, 1998
Irish to Face Purdue
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame's softball team finished its BIG EAST road schedule with a 4-3 record after two wins at Providence and a doubleheader split at Boston College this past weekend. The Irish play three of their remaining 10 BIG EAST home games this week as Seton Hall travels to Notre Dame for a Thurs., April 9, doubleheader and a single game on Sat., April 11. Notre Dame will play Purdue in a non-conference doubleheader on Tues., April 7, with the first game being televised locally by WHME-TV and airing on Wed. night at 11:00 p.m.
Week in Review: After rain washed out Notre Dame's doubleheader at Western Michigan on Tues., March 31, the Irish played Valparaiso on Wed., April 1, in a single game in addition to their doubleheader on Thurs., April 2. The Irish scored four runs in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie for a 6-2 win over the Crusaders. Tara King (Overland Park, Kan.) drove in three runs of Notre Dame's six runs, including a two-out, two-run double in the fifth to drive in the winning run. Kelly Nichols (Vancouver, Wash.) relieved starter Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) in the fourth inning to pick up the win as she allowed no runs and three hits in four innings worked.
In Thursday's doubleheader, Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) and Angela Bessolo (Lakewood, Calif.) pitched complete games as Notre Dame swept Valpo 4-0 and 4-1. Danielle Klayman (San Diego, Calif.) scored after leading off the second with double. King smacked a two-out single in second inning before Dawn Cunningham (Bethalto, Ill.) pinch ran for King. Kris McCleary stroked a two-out double to send Cunningham home for a 2-0 lead. Sharron took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and retired the first two batters but the Crusaders managed two hits, and Sharron finished with a two-hit shutout.
In game two, Valparaiso scored the first run of the game in the top of the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Amy Laboe (Monroe, Mich.) doubled and scored after three straight walks to knot the score. Lisa Tully (Garden Grove, Calif.) reached on a fielders choice, stole second, advanced to third on a groundball and scored on a single by Laboe for a 2-1 Irish lead. Notre Dame added a pair of runs in the fifth when King doubled, scored on a triple by Lemire who scored on a suicide squeeze by Kelly Rowe. Bessolo allowed just two hits, walked just three and matched her season-high with eight strikeouts.
Sharron allowed the Friars just a second-inning double as she struck out seven batters with one walk in facing five batters over the minimum for seven innings. Lemire scored after hitting her first of three doubles on the day to lead off the second inning. Nichols singled and scored after Jenn Giampaolo (San Marino, Calif.) singled her home for a 2-0 lead. Freshman Melanie Alkire led off the third inning with a solo homer, the first of her career, for the 3-0 lead.
Lemire sparked the Irish once again in game two by walking in the second inning, stealing second and scoring on two passed balls. She then doubled home Alkire and Amy Laboe with two outs in the third to put the Irish up 3-0. Bessolo threw five and two-thirds innings to pick up her fourth win of the season while allowing Providence just two runs on six hits with six strikeouts and just one walk. Nichols pitched the final one and one-third innings, retiring the final four batters she faced to record her third save of the season and NCAA record 21st of her career.
In the first game against Boston College, the Irish took a 2-1 lead after the second inning and held the lead until the seventh when Boston College's Jennifer Perrotta led off the seventh with a solo homer to tie the score at two. After a scoreless eighth inning, the Eagles used a single, two sacrifice bunts and a single to score the winning run. Nichols had given the Irish a 2-1 lead in the second with a two-run double to score Sarah Mathison and Kris McCleary. Nichols pitched the final two and a third innings to take the loss.
In game two, both teams were scoreless through six innings until King led off the top of the seventh with a double. Cunningham pinch ran for King, went to third on a sacrifice and scored on an RBI single by McCleary. Alkire pitched six and two-third innings and scattered four hits before Nichols relieved her in the seventh with runners on first and second with two outs.
Week in Preview: Notre Dame will welcome Purdue to Ivy Field for the first time on Wed., April 8, for a non-conference doubleheader at 4:00 p.m. The Irish and Boilermakers have met just twice before with Purdue winning 4-3 and 3-0 in West Lafayette in 1997. With a 19-18 record, the Boilers have six batters hitting over .300 with junior Denise Szany leading the team with a .400 average. Senior pitcher Sheryl Scheve has carried the load on the mound for Purdue, pitching 145.1 of the team's 247.1 innings with a 14-12 record and 117 strikeouts. The Boilers' fielding ranks as one of the best in the country with a .965 fielding percentage that is 20th in the country.
The Irish begin three of their 10 BIG EAST home games this weekend with a three-game series against Seton Hall. Since playing its first season in the BIG EAST in 1996, the Irish have won all eight meetings with the Pirates who are currently 12-14-1, 0-9 in the BIG EAST. Seton Hall has lost seven games by two or fewer runs, including four of their nine BIG EAST losses. Junior Kristina Self leads the Pirates with a .333 average while Junior Jen Rosant has driven in 15 runs. Freshman Jenn Berghoff has compiled a 2.76 ERA in 88 innings pitched.
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: Starting with the Purdue doubleheader, the Irish will play 16 of their next 22 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 with 10 home games left on the conference schedule. Notre Dame is 5-0 at home in 1998 with an all-time record of 121-41-2 (.744). The Irish have a 21-4 record at Ivy Field in BIG EAST games since 1996.
Sharron Shines: Freshman pitcher Jennifer Sharron, the first lefthanded pitcher in Irish history, had her best week of action last week as she threw back-to-back shutouts against Valparaiso and Providence, allowing just three hits combined. Against Valpo, she came within four outs of a no-hitter but settled for a two-hit, 4-0 shutout win. Sharron struck out a career-high and team season-high nine Crusaders. She came right back with another strong performance against the Friars, allowing just a second-inning double and striking out eight batters in the 3-0 win. For the week she pitched 20.1 innings, including six and a third innings against Boston College, and allowed just two runs, only one earned, with 18 strikeouts to just four walks.
King Of The Lineup: Sophomore Tara King continued her hot streak last week, hitting 8-19 for a .421 average with three doubles, two runs scored, four RBI and a .579 slugging percentage. In the 6-2 win over Valparaiso, she broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out, two-run double in the fifth. Against Boston College in game two, she set up the game's only run with a lead off double before Dawn Cunningham came in to pinch run and scored the winning run in the 1-0 Irish win. King leads the team in hitting with a .333 overall average and a .364 mark in BIG EAST games.
Head Coach Liz Miller: Liz Miller has compiled a 218-110 (.665) record in her five-plus seasons at Notre Dame since 1993. Miller, with a career record of 759-252 (.751) 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 13-32 (.406) with runners in scoring position. Alkire also is 3-4 with the bases loaded and 7-10 with a runner on third and less than two outs. She leads the team with 23 RBI and eight doubles. Alkire also has helped the Irish on the mound with a 2-1 record in 26 innings pitched and a save.
Spreading The Wealth...And Wins: Notre Dame's depth and balance in its pitching staff was evident last week as the Irish went 6-1 last week with each of the four pitchers on the staff picking up at least one win. Jennifer Sharron and Angela Bessolo each went 2-0 while Kelly Nichols was 1-1 and Melanie Alkire 1-0.
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 156 in 917 at bats, including 56 batters who have struck out looking, while Irish hitters have struck out just 53 times total, including 24 looking.
USA Today/NFCA Coaches Top 25
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 (4/6)
South Division BIG EAST Overall
1. Rutgers 7-2 14-7
2. Villanova 4-3 20-12
2. Notre Dame 4-3 17-16
4. Seton Hall 0-9 12-14-1
North Division BIG EAST Overall
1. Boston College 5-1-1 20-5-1
2. Connecticut 5-2 16-10-1
3. St. John's 3-4 10-16-1
4. Providence 1-5-1 11-15-2
Tara King .333
Jenn Giampaolo 19
Tara King .450
Kelly Nichols 1.10
Strikeouts Per 7 Innings
Angela Bessolo 7.07
Jennifer Sharron 86.0