April 26, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After clinching its third straight BIG EAST South Division title with two wins on Saturday, Notre Dame's softball team blanked Villanova 3-0 to finish its BIG EAST schedule with a 13-3 record, marking the second time in three years the Irish have finished with the best record in the conference. Notre Dame scored the only runs it would need with a three-run second inning thanks to RBI from pinch hitter Sarah Kirkman and Amy Laboe. Freshman Jennifer Sharron picked up the win on the mound for the Irish, who improve to 32-18. Villanova falls to 34-17 and finishes 8-6 in the BIG EAST.
The win extended Notre Dame's winning streak to 15 games, the second longest streak in Irish history. The 1996 team won 19 straight games before losing to Villanova. Notre Dame has not lost since a 4-0 loss to Purdue on April 8. The Irish wrapped up their BIG EAST scheudle with a 9-0 mark at home and improved to 30-4 all-time at home against BIG EAST opponents.
After stranding runners on second and third in the first inning, Notre Dame scored the game's only runs in the second inning. Kris McCleary led off the inning with a double and yielded the base to pinch runner Korrie Allen. Allen went to third on a ground out by Danielle Klayman and scored when she beat out the throw home following Kirkman's groundball to Villanova shortstop Gina Defrancesco.
After Dawn Cunningham came in to run for Kirkman, Lisa Tully singled to advance Cunningham to second base. The pair advanced to second and third on a wild pitch and scored when Laboe singled to centerfield to put the Irish ahead 3-0.
Villanova attempted to rally in the top of the fourth when the Wildcats took advantage of a double and two walks to load the bases with one out. Sharron then used a strikeout and a groundball to end the inning and preserve the 3-0 lead. Senior Kelly Nichols relieved Sharron in the sixth inning and closed out the game to record her NCAA career record 24th save and sixth of the season.
Sharron pitched five innings to improve to 15-6 on the season and 7-1 in the BIG EAST. In her last seven BIG EAST starts, Sharron is 6-0 in 42.1 innings pitched with a 0.33 ERA. Opposing batters have hit just .138 against her in that span.
Notre Dame returns to action when Indiana State travels to Ivy Field for a doubleheader on Tues., April 28, at 4:00 p.m. The Irish then play host to the BIG EAST championship Sat.-Sun., May 2-3, at Ivy Field. De fend ing champion Boston College will open the four-team tournament on Saturday at 10:00 a.m., followed by Notre Dame at 12:00 p.m. Their opponents will be selected on Monday from a four-team pool of Connecticut, Rutgers, St. John's and Villanova.
Villanova 000 000 0 0-4-0 Notre Dame 030 000 x 3-6-2