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    Irish Usher In New Era With Opening Of Melissa Cook Stadium

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    FIGHTING IRISH

    FIGHTING IRISH

    April 11, 2008

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    NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame family will celebrate the life and legacy of one of its own with the opening of softball's Melissa Cook Stadium on Saturday.

    Cook, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate, was one of four people involved in a March 2002 construction accident at the John Hancock Building in Chicago that claimed each of their lives. The families of the departed reached a settlement with the skyscraper's owners and other companies named in a joint lawsuit. Her parents, Linda and Paul Demo, contributed a considerable amount of their portion of the settlement as a gift to Notre Dame and to the Melissa Cook Memorial Foundation, established to provide scholarship assistance to students in Northwest Indiana.


    Raised in Merrillville, Ind., Cook played for the Fighting Irish softball team in 1991 and 1992, seeing time at second base, shortstop and catcher. She led the team in triples as a freshman and earned a monogram before opting to study abroad one year later. An accounting major, she earned her bachelor's degree and was the controller for Teamsters Union Local 786 prior to her death.

    She was a standout athlete in high school, excelling in basketball, volleyball and softball. When Notre Dame offered her a scholarship to play softball, she had achieved a lifelong dream.

    Notre Dame broke ground on the stadium in April of 2007 on the weekend the University celebrated 35 years of women's athletics.

    Melissa Cook Stadium, a $4.9 million state-of-the-art facility, sits on the southeast corner of the Notre Dame campus near Eck Baseball Stadium. Its features include: Bluegrass sod outfield, Hilltopper Stabilizer synthetic dirt, brick/stucco exterior structure, complete field drainage system to a series of drywells, Daktronics scoreboard with full color message center, Musco lighting, home and visitor locker rooms, heated dugouts, television camera pits, coaches gameday office, training room, umpire's locker room, spacious press box with exclusive areas for media and guests, player's lounge with study area and cutting edge entertainment area, Wi-Fi, home and visitor bullpens, six batting cages, family picnic lawn, chair back and bleacher seating, concession stand, interior restrooms, and commons area.

    The Irish will open play in their new stadium against Rutgers with a two-game set slated to begin at noon (ET). Notre Dame will turn around and host Villanova on Sunday (April 13) in the weekend's second doubleheader.

    The state-of-the-art facility will house the Irish softball program after the team retired its former complex, Ivy Field, with a 5-1 win over Eastern Michigan this past Wednesday.

    Live stats, video, and audio can be accessed at UND.com for each of Notre Dame's remaining home games this season. Saturday's game will be free of charge while the doubleheader against Villanova (April 13) is the first ticketed game of the season. For more information, call the Notre Dame Ticket Office at 574.631.7356. There will also be a number of special promotional events and giveaways to commemorate the two-day event.

    Saturday, April 12
    9:30 a.m. - Dedication ceremony at stadium
    10 a.m. - Breakfast at stadium
    12 p.m. - Softball doubleheader vs. Rutgers
    6:30 p.m. - Mass (Basilica of the Sacred Heart)

    Sunday, April 13
    11 a.m. - Softball doubleheader vs. Villanova

    Spin Cycle ... Sophomore first baseman Christine Lux was batting .182 heading into Wednesday's doubleheader against Eastern Michigan (April 9) ... two games and a few hits later, that average was bumped up to .223, aided especially by a record-setting performance at the plate ... Lux hit for the cycle over the two-game swing, knocking a homer, double, and single in game one ... she settled for a triple and one single in the second contest ... Lux tied a school record with seven RBI to open the day, matching Megan Ruthrauff's total from a 2006 conference game at Pittsburgh, which was played exactly two years prior ... though Lux accomplished the feat in an abbreviated five-inning game, seeing the plate only three times ... Ruthrauff had four hits in her five at-bats, including three home runs ... senior Katie Laing totaled seven RBI during Sunday's series at Seton Hall (April 6), with four in game one and three in the capper.


    Tit for Tat ... Heading into the weekend, Ashley Ellis has 18 hits and has scored 18 times ... Katie Laing has taken a different approach, racking up 39 RBI on her 39 hits.

    Your Vote Is Appreciated ... For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame has received votes in the USA Today/NFCA softball poll ... an upset win over then No. 17 DePaul on March 30 earned the Irish a pair of votes, and five wins this past week (April 2-6) bumped the vote total up to 11 ... Notre Dame's RPI, which was 25th best in the nation last week, is currently 32nd.

    Tennessee Titan ... Ashley Ellis posted a .684 batting average during Notre Dame's last six wins ... during that stretch the Tennessee native reached base safely in 13 consecutive at-bats, counting six-straight hits from the plate.

    Four-Three ... Senior Katie Laing swings a fine bat but you've got to give some love to her glove ... she ranks second all-time on the career assists list with 395 - the most ever recorded by an Irish second baseman ... Ruth Kmak (1989-92) had 467 from her shortstop position.

    If the Season Ended Today ... Nineteen of Katie Laing's 39 hits this season have gone for extra-bases ... her 10 doubles, three triples, and six homers have steered her towards a .676 slugging percentage ... that currently ranks as the highest single-season average in school history, standing on top of Melanie Alkire's .665 mark set in 2000.

    Sweet Sweep ... Two members of the team were recognized by the BIG EAST Conference on Monday (April 7) after leading the Irish to a 5-0 record last week ... junior pitcher Brittney Bargar was named the league's pitcher of the week while senior second baseman Katie Laing copped the conference's player of the week award ... it was the first time this season that two teammates swept the awards ... Laing earned the honor for the second time this season with an explosive offensive output that helped Notre Dame improve to 22-10 overall and 5-1 in BIG EAST play ... the Tempe, Ariz., native went 10-for-19 with 13 RBI, five runs, four home runs and one double for a .526 batting average and a 1.211 slugging percentage ... Laing also snagged two stolen bases ... she had four multi-hit and multi-RBI games on the week, including two homers and two RBI in a 12-1 win at Seton Hall (April 6) ... she was a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate in Notre Dame's 2-1 victory over Toledo on April 2, slamming one home run and one double for two RBI and a run scored ... Bargar earned her third conference honor of the season on the strength of her trusty right arm that helped her collect four BIG EAST victories along with a midweek win over Toledo ... her 5-0 record for the week was parlayed with a 0.00 ERA ... the righty fanned 27 batters in 27.1 innings of work ... she allowed only 12 hits - all singles - four walks, and one unearned run ... Bargar tossed 13.1 innings over two games at St. John's (April 5), totaling 16 strikeouts while limiting the Red Storm to seven hits ... she was able to run her streak of innings pitched without surrendering an earned run to 54.1, dating back to a March 14 date at Charleston Southern.

    Long, Strong Ivy ... The home of Notre Dame softball since the program's inception in 1989, Ivy Field saw its final pair of games on Wednesday when the Irish swept Eastern Michigan (April 9) in a non-conference doubleheader ... Notre Dame finished with an all-time record of 288-48-2 (.854) within the friendly confines, including each of the four home games played on its turf in 2008.


    The Queens of Queens (N.Y.) ... Notre Dame stayed flawless against St. John's with a doubleheader sweep on April 5 ... the team is now 26-0 all-time against the Red Storm, but it didn't come easy ... the Irish needed all of 12 innings in their 8-4 win to finish the twinbill, which was the largest margin of victory in program history in a game extending past the regulation 7.0 innings ... the last time Notre Dame won in a 12-inning contest was in 1994, when they defeated Indiana on May 20 by a count of 3-1.

    Walk It Out ... Junior Linda Kohan has found her knack for getting on base with her patience at the plate ... she has drawn more walks (20) than hits (19) recorded this season for an on-base percentage of .412, which leads the team.

    Just a Couple of Benjamins ... Four wins this past weekend (April 5-6) bumped Notre Dame's all-time BIG EAST regular-season record to 199-38 (.840), as the team will venture out to record No. 200 Saturday against Rutgers ... the Irish are 263-46 (.851) in overall regular-season conference games, posting a 64-14 (.820) mark as members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1989-95.

    A Freshman's First ... Freshman Jody Valdivia was named the BIG EAST Conference's Pitcher of the Week on Monday (March 31) ... the first-year tosser picked up her fifth win of the season by handing No. 17 DePaul a 2-0 defeat in her first career BIG EAST action on Sunday (March 30) to secure the honor ... the occasion marks the third time in seven weeks that an Irish pitcher has won the award, as Brittney Bargar claimed the accolade twice earlier in the season ... Valdivia (5-4) needed only 10.2 innings of work to pick up two shutout wins this past week ... she dealt DePaul its first regular-season league loss since the 2006 campaign by keeping the Blue Demons at bay with a five-hit effort ... she also limited IUPUI to only three hits without a walk while fanning seven in Notre Dame's home opener on March 26 ... the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native struck out nine batters without allowing a single run over the course of her two outings.

    More Than Just Downing DePaul ... Jody Valdivia and Brittney Bargar teamed to help the Irish defeat No. 17 DePaul to wrap up a March 30 conference doubleheader ... Valdivia got the win and went 5.2 innings and struck out three with Bargar stepping in to finish the final 1.1 frames to earn her first save of the 2008 campaign ... the duo's efforts put an end to DePaul's 25-game regular season conference winning streak that dated back to April of 2006 ... it was also Notre Dame's first win at DePaul since the 2005 season ... the win also signified the first time that Notre Dame beat an opponent that carried a No. 17 ranking, and was the 16th time the Irish shut out a ranked foe ... Notre Dame has 49 all-time wins against ranked opponents.

    BIG EAST Notices Blanking of the Broncos ... Senior Katie Laing and junior Brittney Bargar found spots on the BIG EAST Conference's weekly honor roll for their efforts against Western Michigan (March 20) ... Bargar tossed a complete-game shutout to give Notre Dame a 2-0 non-conference win against WMU on a cold Michigan afternoon ... Bargar gave up only two hits in 7.0 frames of work and struck out nine Broncos ... she also helped herself by cleanly fielding six grounders for outs ... her only walk of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning ... senior Katie Laing finished a perfect 2-for-2 at the dish against the Broncos and was the lone player on either team to record more than one hit in the game ... she singled in her first at-bat then belted a solo homer to deep centerfield during her second plate appearance ... it was her second homer of the season, and her 12th knock of the campaign that has been good for extra-bases.

    She Can Toss It ... Junior Brittney Bargar was named the BIG EAST Conference's Pitcher of the Week on March 17, claiming the honor for the second time in as many weeks ... Bargar turned in a 0.41 ERA over three appearances at Charleston Southern's Lowcountry Collegiate Softball Invitational to earn a spot on the event's all-tournament team ... she pitched her way to three wins from the circle - including two shutouts - while giving up only 13 hits in 17.1 frames ... Bargar struck out 12 batters over that interval and allowed one earned run ... she allowed only three earned runs for a 0.39 ERA since March 1, covering 11 contests and 53.2 innings of work in that timeframe.

    The Lowcountry Lowdown ... Four wins at the Lowcountry Collegiate Softball Invitational hosted by Charleston Southern highlighted Notre Dame's trip to South Carolina ... Sadie Pitzenberger and Katie Laing both totaled seven hits at the tournament to lead the team ... pitcher Brittney Bargar registered a pair of shutout wins from the circle ... a ten-run third inning gave the Irish a 10-2 win in five innings over host Charleston Southern on Saturday (March 16) ... the Buccaneers took a brief 2-0 lead in the top of the third before the Irish pounded out nine hits in the visitor's half of the frame to post the double-figure total ... Pitzenberger scored twice in the inning ... the Irish registered five consecutive hits at one point during the frame ... during a day-one sweep over Towson and Charleston Southern (March 15), Notre Dame's 23 scores on 25 hits marked the program's highest run total over a two-game stretch since taking a pair of contests from Valparaiso on April 23, 2003, by scores of 11-0 and 15-1 ... Notre Dame totaled a season-high 14 hits in 25 official at-bats in the second game against CSU ... Notre Dame totaled 51 hits (10.2/game) and scored 40 runs (8/game) at the event ... in fact, the squad registered at least 10 hits in three consecutive games over that stretch ... each of the 10 hits against Campbell (March 15) were singles ... Laing had two triples, two doubles and seven RBI at the tournament - including a career-high four RBI against Charleston Southern on opening day ... Christine Lux slammed two homers, and Katie Fleury drove in six scores while adding on five runs herself, finishing with a .657 on-base clip ... Sarah Smith and Ashley Ellis shared for team-bests with a .545 batting average at the five-game invite ... the two shared nearly identical stat lines with a .545 average in 11 at-bats, six hits, one walk, and a .583 on-base percentage ... freshman Shannon Kelly notched the first hit of her career against Towson (March 14).

    California Love ... The Irish enjoyed a 6-3 mark during its Spring Break trip to the West Coast ... both Katie Fleury and Sadie Pitzenberger registered nine hits over the break to lead the team ... Ashley Ellis totaled two homers to go along with four singles for a .571 slugging percentage ... she also led the team with eight RBI in eight games ... collectively, Notre Dame hit .261 while holding opponents to a .218 mark ... the pitching corps posted a 1.07 ERA over 59.0 innings.

    Twice the Fun ... Two doubles by Katie Laing highlighted her 3-for-4 day at the plate and gave the senior the program's all-time career record by bringing her two-bagger total to 50 during Notre Dame's win at UC Riverside (March 4) ... her record-setting double in the fifth inning traveled to left-center to score Beth Northway ... Laing also led the team with three RBI against the Aggies.

    Longballs at Long Beach ... There were 17 games played during the Long Beach Invitational ... but only one home run left the park during the event ... that smash came off the bat of Ashley Ellis, who sent her third homer of the season out of the complex against No. 2 UCLA ... most of the tournament's contests were played at Lisa Fernandez Field at Mayfair Park in Lakewood (Calif.) ... that field featured a fence that sat all of 275 feet from home plate.

    Pound Town ... Notre Dame racked UC Davis pitcher Jessica Hancock for 13 hits in its 6-5 win on March 1 ... at the time, the season-high hit total signified the most knocks Notre Dame had recorded in a game since it registered 16 against Syracuse on April 1, 2007 ... each Irish batter recorded at least one hit in the game ... Sadie Pitzenberger, Sarah Smith, Beth Northway, and Ashley Ellis each punched in multi-hit efforts at the plate ... Ellis - who screeched a homer over the leftfield fence that exited the park in a flash - also drove in a career-high four runs.

    With Honors ... Junior Brittney Bargar was named the BIG EAST Conference's Pitcher of the Week on March 10 ... the Corona, Calif., native made five appearances for the Irish from March 1-9, logging 25.1 innings of work while posting a 0.55 ERA over that stretch ... during that time she fanned 21 batters, issued three walks, and gave up only two earned runs ... Bargar tossed a one-hitter against Long Beach State (March 7) but did not get the run support needed to earn the win in Notre Dame's 1-0 loss ... one day later she out-dueled No. 24 Virginia Tech and its ace pitcher, Angela Tincher, by giving up only one run on six hits with four strikeouts in the winning effort ... she also checked in for the Irish against No. 2 UCLA to turn in a shutout relief performance.

    Pit of the Pitzenbergers ... Sadie Pitzenberger went head-to-head with her sister, Amanda, when Notre Dame faced CS Northridge (March 9) ... Amanda, who started at third for the Matadors, ended the game without a hit ... Sadie, however, connected on a fifth-inning double that plated a pair of runs to propel Notre Dame to its 3-1 non-conference win ... Sadie's game-winning hit was her only knock of the game.

    Fallen Ranks ... Notre Dame earned its first win over a ranked opponent this season when it topped No. 24 Virginia Tech, 2-1 ... previous attempts to upend foes in the top-25 faltered during battles with No. 3 Texas A&M (L, 1-4), No. 7 Florida (L, 2-3 / 5-2), and No. 2 UCLA (L, 2-3).

    Making a Splash at the Aquafinia Invite ... A morning loss to Gardner-Webb in the two team's first ever meeting was followed by a shutout win over North Florida for Notre Dame on the opening day of the Aquafina Invitational ... Brittney Bargar provided 3.1 innings of relief work from the circle against Gardner-Webb, scattering two hits without permitting a run ... the Irish scored two runs in the sixth inning after punching in four hits ... both Sadie Pitzenberger and Katie Fleury had two hits apiece to pace Notre Dame ... Barger came back and threw 7.0 innings of shutout ball and struck out seven Lady Ospreys in Notre Dame's first win over North Florida ... Katie Laing led Notre Dame with two hits, and Christine Lux added a double ... freshman Jody Valdivia and Bargar combined to pitch 13.0 innings without surrendering an earned run on the second day of the invite ... Valdivia picked up her first career win in an Irish uniform by going 7.0 innings against North Florida, giving up only one hit while fanning seven batters ... then after holding No. 7 Florida scoreless through five frames, Bargar let a trio of unearned runs cross the plate in the sixth despite giving up only five hits and two walks in the contest ... Notre Dame held a 2-0 lead over the undefeated Gators until that three-run sixth gave Florida its come-from-behind win ... Notre Dame began its first inning against the Gators with Pitzenberger reaching base after getting hit by a Stacey Nelson pitch ... Pitzenberger advanced to third on a Gator throwing error, and would score when Laing grounded out to short with one out ... that score snapped Nelson's 40.0 inning scoreless streak which dated back to a Feb. 10 game against South Florida ... three runs on three hits and one Irish error gave Florida its lead in the bottom of the sixth ... the Irish totaled five hits in game two against UNF's Devyn Findley, with two of those coming off the bat of Linda Kohan who finished the night a perfect 2-for-2 at the dish ... the junior also registered the team's lone RBI, a fourth-inning single that plated Sarah Smith ... Heather Johnson and Erin Marrone each recorded doubles for Notre Dame, who managed the win despite stranding nine runners on base ... day three featured the Irish and Gators in the tournament's championship game ... the Gators turned away the Irish with a 5-2 win ... Smith recorded Notre Dame's first hit of the afternoon - a single to shallow left - to leadoff the sixth ... a single up the gut of the Gator defense by Pitzenberger put two on the pond, and Fleury drew a walk to juice the bags ... Nelson fired in a double-play ball to relieve two Irish players, but Johnson delivered a two-out single to left that scored a pair of runs for Notre Dame ... Pitzenberger had five hits over the course of the tournament to lead the Irish, while Johnson posted a team-high three RBI.

    Laing Shines In Homecoming ... Senior second baseman Katie Laing earned the first BIG EAST Conference Softball Player of the Week honor for the 2008 season (Feb. 18) ... Laing, a native of Tempe, Ariz., recorded a team-best batting average (.429), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.500) and RBI total (4) over the four-game stretch ... she totaled 10 bases on the weekend and had multi-hit performances in the 6-5 loss to Western Kentucky and the 4-3 win over California in front of her hometown crowd ... against the Golden Bears, Laing recorded a two-run homer to put Notre Dame on the board early in the contest, and then knocked a walk-off double to drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

    Bend It Like Bargar ... Junior Brittney Bargar made three appearances and logged 18.1 innings of work and posted a 1.91 ERA for Notre Dame during the Kajikawa Classic to earn a seat on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Feb. 18) ... she struck out 23 batters over that stretch and earned two wins while giving up only nine hits through three games ... Bargar helped the Irish to a comeback win over California after punching in 4.1 innings of relief time and gave up only two hits without a run ... she also held No. 3 Texas A&M to only four hits in a complete-game effort ... she opened the season against Utah with a 6-2 win, limiting the Utes to only three hits.

    First Time for Everything ... For the first time in Notre Dame history, the Irish scored four runs in a season's opening inning when they accomplished the feat in the top of the first against Utah (Feb. 15) ... the previous record of three was set against Indiana in the 1990 season opener ... the four-run output in a single inning was the team's first since they racked up five scores in the top of the third against No. 12 DePaul (May 11) at last season's BIG EAST Tournament ... five freshmen earned starting nods at some point during the Kajikawa Classic ... Ashley Ellis' first career homerun - a deep solo shot to center - came during the seventh inning to wrap up Notre Dame's scoring against the Utes ... in her first career at-bat, freshman Brianna Jorgensborg laced a three-RBI double down the rightfield line.

    Mutli-Tasking ... Both Sadie Pitzenberger and Katie Laing registered a pair of multi-hit efforts during the Kajikawa Classic ... Laing had two hits against both California and Western Kentucky ... in her first collegiate contest, Pitzenberger lit Utah for three hits and snagged a pair of doubles against the Hilltoppers ... four players - Pitzenberger, Laing, Heather Johnson, and Brianna Jorgensborg - had multi-RBI performances over the four-game stretch as well.

    Let the Sun Shine ... Although the temperature was not quite ideal for a season-opening tournament in Arizona, the Irish squad was nonetheless ready to rip out and relish the opportunity to play outdoors after practicing in the indoor Loftus Center on campus for the past several weeks ... Notre Dame wasted no time lighting its offensive fire, exploding for four runs on three hits in the top half of the first inning to open the season against Utah ... each of the nine batters in the lineup saw action at the dish in that frame ... the Irish defense turned around and shutout the Utes for four innings, also leaving them without a hit during that stretch.

    Johnson Comes Up Big ... With their backs against the wall and trailing Western Kentucky, 5-3, the Irish needed a lift in the top of the seventh to stay alive ... Sadie Pitzenberger led the frame with a double but was stranded on base after the next two batters were retired ... facing a 2-2 count, Heather Johnson crushed a two-run homer to left-center to tie the game and keep the Irish pulse beating ... it was the third homerun of the sophomore's career.

    Take a Load Off ... It's great to open a fresh season with a win, and head coach Deanna Gumpf has now done that on three occasions in seven tries with the Irish following a 6-2 triumph over Utah ... Gumpf's first career game as Notre Dame's head coach was against the top-ranked team in the nation ... Notre Dame fell in that duel to No. 1 Arizona, 3-0, in Tucson during the Arizona Pepsi Classic in 2002.

    --ND--
     

     

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