May 11, 2011
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
Notre Dame ran through the BIG EAST Conference softball regular season schedule in commanding fashion, and its efforts were recognized Wednesday evening during the league's annual softball banquet held at Louisville's Hyatt Regency.
Heather Johnson was named Player of the Year, Deanna Gumpf and her assistants were tabbed Coaching Staff of the Year, and Notre Dame had eight players earn all-league honors.
Notre Dame can now claim 109 all-BIG EAST team members since joining the league in 1996. Even more, 11 of the active 21 players on this year's roster have earned an all-BIG EAST honor at least once in the past four years.
Flanked by assistants Kristina Ganeff and Lizzy Lemire, Gumpf and company earned the league's award for Coaching Staff of the Year for the third time overall. Gumpf's staffs also won the award in 2002 and 2004.
Under Gumpf's watch, Notre Dame won its seventh BIG EAST regular season title this year as the 10th-year skipper also shelved her 400th career victory earlier in the season.
Former head coach Liz Miller was also a three-time recipient of the award.
Gumpf's 2011 squad led the BIG EAST in a number of statistical categories, including batting average (.385), slugging pct. (.636), on-base pct. (.459), runs scored (162), hits (204) and RBI (145).
Johnson, the nation's active leader with 238 consecutive starts, is the seventh Irish softball student-athlete to be named Player of the Year and the first since Megan Ciolli copped the hardware in 2004.
Melanie Alkire (1999, 2000) and Meghan Murray (1996, 1997) are the only Notre Dame players to win the award on multiple occasions.
Also a first-team selection, Johnson is the BIG EAST record holder with 82 career RBI in league play. She is also seventh in doubles (19) and home runs (15).
Previously a second-team member in 2010, Johnson hit .475 with a league-high 29 RBI this year with a league-best eight home runs and 59 total bases.
The second-team all-league citation is the third for Brianna Jorgensborg, who was a second-team performer in both 2008 and 2010. Jorgensborg, a senior outfielder, turned the corner during the three-game series with St. John's to cap off a week that saw her hit .600 with a 1.800 slugging pct. She went 6-for-10 at the dish during that jaunt as each of her hits were good for extra bases (three doubles, three home runs). Two of those home runs came against the Red Storm, and she was ninth overall in league pay with a .429 clip. She successfully stole eight bases in as many attempts.
Sadie Pitzenberger, a first-team choice, would have also won the league's Comeback Player of the Year award had there been one. After recovering from a third ACL surgery before the season, Pitzenberger led the league with a .561 batting average and was the only player to hit over .500. Her 32 hits were a league high and her .542 on-base pct. was sixth. She recorded at least one hit in all but one of 20 league contests. The senior outfielder was named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament team in 2010.
Her .400 career league average is 16th on the BIG EAST's all-time chart.
One of two freshman pitchers named to the first team, the highlight of Laura Winter's first year in the circle for Notre Dame came during a near-perfect no-hitter at USF in which she walked and beaned the first two batters while retiring the rest for the remainder of the game. Winter boasted a 2.96 ERA with a 9-1 record. Winter struck out 88 in 71.0 innings of work, walking only seven over that stretch.
In her BIG EAST debut, she punched out 10 Providence batters en route to a five-inning, 12-4 victory.
Brittany O'Donnell, who was named to the second team, provided a reliable one-two kick for Notre Dame from inside the lines along with Winter by posting a perfect 7-0 record in nine appearances. She started four contests and held opposing batters to only two extra-base hits. O'Donnell struck out 35 batters in 32.2 frames and was one of two league pitchers without a conference loss on the year.
The crafty Alexa Maldonado, who brought home first-team honors as a sophomore, was equally impressive in the outfield during her junior season while claiming the same honor tonight. She was seventh overall with a .433 batting average and tied for second with both 29 hits and seven doubles.
Maldonado had 15 hits in the final six games of league play, including a 4-for-4 showing at Connecticut in the regular-season finale. She also homered twice against BIG EAST foes and added two assists from centerfield.
First-team honoree Alexia Clay, a senior catcher, carried a big stick throughout league play with a .482 batting average, which trailed only Pitzenberger's. Her .571 on-base pct. was the best in the league as were her 23 runs scored. Clay was one of the main reasons why Notre Dame earned the top seed heading into the tournament, as her seventh-inning grand slam last week at Connecticut secured the league title en route to a 14-11 road win.
Katie Fleury earned the third all-BIG EAST honor of her career by being named to the second team. The shortstop scored 22 runs to tie the BIG EAST career record of 68. Fleury also stole 10 bags in 2011 to bring her league total to a perfect 20-of-20, the highest career pct. of any player in league history.
Fleury hit .353 in league contests with a .667 slugging pct. Four of her six home runs were hit during conference play.
The top-seeded Irish play Providence at 4:00 p.m. (ET) Thursday on the opening day of the BIG EAST Championship at Louisville's Ulmer Stadium.