May 15, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the first time in five seasons, the Notre Dame softball team will open NCAA Championship play in a city not named Ann Arbor.
The Irish (38-14) head west and will face Hawaii (44-7) at 5:30 (ET) Friday at Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. The regional host team, 13th-seeded Arizona (35-17), will play North Dakota State (37-20) at 8 p.m.
Each game of the Tucson Regional will be televised live on ESPNU and ESPN3.
The bid into the NCAA Championship is the 14th straight for Notre Dame and 11th in as many seasons under the direction of head coach Deanna Gumpf. Notre Dame had previously been shipped to Ann Arbor, Mich., for four straight NCAA Regionals from 2008-2011. This season marks the first ever for Notre Dame to travel to a non-Big Ten Conference site for NCAA Regional action.
Notre Dame is one of a record five BIG EAST Conference softball programs selected for the NCAA Championship along with Louisville, Syracuse, USF and DePaul.
The NCAA Championship is a 64-team tournament beginning May 18. Regional action will take place at host schools on May 18-20 with Super Regionals running from May 24-27.
The Women's College World Series will be held in Oklahoma City, Okla., from May 31-June 6.
Fans are encouraged to track the Irish throughout the tournament on Twitter by following @NDsoftball, @NDcoachGumpf and @NDsidJorge.
NCAA Championship Tucson Regional Schedule--
Friday, May 18 - ESPNU / ESPN3 2:30 p.m. - Game 1: No. 2 Hawaii vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 5:00 p.m. - Game 2: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 North Dakota State
Saturday, May 19 - ESPNU / ESPN3 3:30 p.m. - Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner 5:30 p.m. - Game 4: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser 8:00 p.m. - Game 5: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 3 Loser
Sunday, May 20 - ESPNU / ESPN3 2:30 p.m. - Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner 5:00 p.m. - Game 7 (if necessary): Game 6 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser
* all times local to site (MT) and subject to change
Notre Dame has appeared in the NCAA Championship 17 times overall, making its 14th consecutive appearance in 2012 ... the Irish have advanced to the final day of regional action six times ... Notre Dame was eliminated on the final day by Iowa in 2001, Northwestern in 2005 and 2006 and Michigan in 1995, 2009 and 2010.
Notre Dame's final game of the 2011 edition of the NCAA Championship saw the Irish fall in heartbreaking fashion against longtime rival Michigan ... a five-run lead in the top of the sixth was not enough for Notre Dame as the second-ranked Wolverines used six runs in the bottom half of the frame ... backed against the ropes, the Wolverines trailed 8-3 before grinding out their final six runs on six hits for the 9-8 comeback win.
Former Irish head coach Liz Miller guided the Irish to their first NCAA appearance (1994) and returned five more times (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001) ... Deanna Gumpf has steered her Irish squads to 11 NCAA trips in as many seasons (2002-2012).
Notre Dame has an overall record of 24-32 (.429) in the NCAA Championship through 16 trips.
Until 2012, the Irish traveled exclusively to Big Ten regional sites since they began to qualify for NCAA regional play ... Indiana (1994), Iowa (2001-02), Michigan (1995-96, 1999-2000, 2003-04, 2008-11) and Northwestern (2006-07) have hosted the Irish in regional competition ... Notre Dame played host to its first regional at Ivy Field in 2005.
In just its sixth season as a varsity program, Notre Dame made its first NCAA appearance in 1994 ... playing in Bloomington, Ind., the Irish faced top-seeded Indiana in the first game of the tournament and dealt the Hoosiers a 3-0 defeat in eight innings ... the host team avenged the loss one day later with an 8-0 victory.
Arguably the greatest pitcher in Notre Dame softball history, Terri Kobata won the first NCAA Championship game for the Irish with a two-hit, nine-strikeout performance against Indiana in 1994.
Notre Dame was ranked as high as seventh in the nation during the 2001 campaign and earned the team's first NCAA Championship number-one seed ... the team could not play host to the event that season, however, and would bow out on the final day of the regional to No. 2 Iowa on the Hawkeye's home field.
Nine runs on seven hits by the Irish offense and pitcher Brittney Bargar's second no-hitter in as many weeks gave the second-seeded Irish a victory over third-seeded Kent State in six innings to open the 2008 tournament in Ann Arbor ... the 9-1 decision marked the fourth no-hitter of Bargar's career but the second in which the hurler allowed a run ... it was the 36th no-hitter in school history and the first for Notre Dame in the NCAA Championship, also giving Bargar the honor of becoming the first Irish pitcher to record 30 wins in a season.
In the 2008 opener against Kent State, Linda Kohan and Katie Fleury were joined in the home run department by Christine Lux, with each of the three bombs coming in the game's third inning ... it was the second time in school history the Irish hit three home runs in the same inning - a feat last accomplished exactly one month prior against Wisconsin (April 16) by the same trio.
Notre Dame has won 17 of its last 18 games heading into the NCAA Championship while posting respective winnings streaks of nine and 17 contests earlier this season.
Despite carrying an 8-8 record through the third week of the season, the Irish have since won 30 of their last 36 contests.
During Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak, the Irish out-scored opponents by a 110-27 margin with the pitching corps posting a 1.50 ERA ... Kelsey Thornton posted a team-best .442 batting avg. and Dani Miller contributed nine home runs over that stretch ... Laura Winter was brilliant from the circle, winning 13 consecutive games - including a no-hitter over DePaul and six shutouts - and carried a 1.23 ERA with 100 strikeouts and five walks in 85.2 innings of work.
Notre Dame is a combined 4-13 against the field at the Tucson Regional ... the Irish are 3-5 against Hawaii but have won each of the last three games in the all-time series ... Notre Dame and North Dakota State split a 2009 doubleheader at Melissa Cook Stadium ... Arizona has won each of the seven matchups with the Irish, including the 2002 season opener ... that contest was Deanna Gumpf's first as Notre Dame's head coach, with the top-ranked Wildcats claiming a 3-0 victory.
In 14 games played at Hillenbrand Stadium, Notre Dame is 5-9 while going 2-4 at the 1999 Hillenbrand Tournament and 3-5 in the 2002 Pepsi Classic.
Picked third in the BIG EAST Conference preseason coaches poll, the Irish finished second in the league's regular-season play and lost in the tournament finale in eight innings to Louisville, 4-3 ... Thornton, Winter, Amy Buntin and Katey Haus each were named to the BIG EAST Championship all-tournament team.
Notre Dame is receiving votes in the USA Softball top 25 poll ... the Irish are ranked 30th in the NCAA RPI.
Notre Dame sits among the top 50 in a number of NCAA statistical rankings including batting avg. (26th - .305), ERA (50th - 2.28), scoring (33rd - 5.25 runs/game), W/L pct. (24th - .731), home runs per game (29th - 0.96) and slugging pct. (26th - .467).
On the individual level, Winter is second with 0.62 walks allowed per 7.0 innings, 18th with 266 strikeouts and 20th with 26 wins ... Buntin is 12th with 1.13 RBI/game and Miller is 19th with four sacrifice flies and 26th with 16 home runs.
How good have the Irish been in the field as of late? The Irish have not committed an error since a 10-0 win over Eastern Michigan (May 2), a span of 163 of chances ... Buntin (124 chances), Miller (216) and Chloe Saganowich (55) also carry impressive individual fielding streaks without an error into the NCAA Tournament ... Notre Dame is 60th nationally with a .967 fielding pct.
Winter was named BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year and was one of six Notre Dame players to earn an all-BIG EAST citation after being recognized as a first-team performer for the second time in as many seasons ... Alexa Maldonado and Miller joined Winter on the first team while Saganowich, Buntin and Thornton were named to the second team ... Winter earned the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year honor after ranking among the top six players in most pitching categories for conference games ... Winter led the league with 13 conference victories and ranked second with a 1.21 ERA ... Maldonado copped her third all-league citation and became the 10th Irish player ever to be named to the first team on three occasions.
Miller inches close to a pair of Notre Dame home run records ... Miller needs one more to match the single-season record (17) set by Christine Lux and Heather Johnson in 2010 ... Miller needs two home runs to tie the career mark achieved by Lux (50) from 2007-10.
Miller (56) and Buntin (59) are only the second set of teammates in program history to record over 50 RBI in the same season ... both Johnson (68) and Lux (62) did so in 2010.
Prior to giving up an earned run to St. John's in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship, Winter went 30.0 innings without allowing an earned run from the circle ... earlier in the season, Winter went 19.2 innings without allowing an earned run and lasted 26.2 innings without issuing a walk.
Winter tossed her second straight solo shutout and Saganowich belted her first career home run as Notre Dame ended the regular season with a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh (May 5) to sweep the three-game league series ... paired with 12 strikeouts, the solo shutout was the eighth of Winter's career as the righty extended her winning streak from the circle to 11 games in as many decisions ... with its 15th consecutive win, Notre Dame was riding its longest winning streak since posting 19 straight victories midway through the 2005 campaign.
Miller smashed five home runs from April 24-29 and went yard in four straight games as the Irish picked up wins over Michigan State, Seton Hall and Providence ... Miller also belted a grand slam in the third of three games at Providence while Alexa Maldonado slammed a pair of home runs in the 14-2 rout of the Friars ... Winter fanned 38 batters in 23.0 innings of work for four wins ... Winter logged a career-high 15 strikeouts in game one versus the Friars.
Notre Dame swept its three-game league series with DePaul (April 21-22), the first sweep of the Blue Demons since 2006 ... Winter tossed her second career no-hitter with a 3-0 blanking of DePaul in the opening game of the series ... Winter held DePaul to one earned run in 20.2 innings of action in the three-game set ... Buntin led the Irish offense with three home runs and a 1.143 slugging pct. on the week.
Head coach Deanna Gumpf notched her 450th career win when the Irish defeated DePaul on April 21.
Notre Dame has been playing for more than wins throughout the season ... the Irish uniforms have included a number of orange-colored accessories since the summer of 2010, when head coach Deanna Gumpf's daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed with leukemia ... now six-years old, Tatum is on her way to a full recovery ... Tatum continues to take medication daily and makes regular visits for treatments and checkups ... in 2011, Notre Dame raised more money than any other school in the nation as part of the NFCA's Strikeout Cancer initiative and presented a check for $12,046 to the pediatric oncology unit of the South Bend Memorial Hospital ... the 2012 'Strikeout Cancer' game was played in April against Syracuse, which sported all-orange attire and later auctioned off the uniforms and donated the money to Notre Dame's efforts ... even more, the second of the two losses to the Orange in the three-game league series helped spark a 17-game winning streak for the Irish.
Entering the 2012 season, Notre Dame sought to replace eight seniors departed from a record-setting 2011 campaign ... gone were 773 of 1,453 at-bats, 270 of 480 hits, 52 of 82 doubles, seven of 12 triples, 31 of 52 home runs, 186 of 291 RBI and a combined .349 batting average ... graduation mark the final goodbyes to 2011 BIG EAST Player of the Year Heather Johnson and 2010 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Jody Valdivia ... Johnson and Katie Fleury were also NFCA third team All-Americans ... in 2012, Notre Dame inserted a trio of freshmen (Katey Haus, Emilee Koerner and Jenna Simon) into the lineup in addition to three rarely-used players from previous seasons (Amy Buntin, Kelsey Thornton and Chloe Saganowich) ... each of the latter three were named all-BIG EAST ... not to be outdone, only eight programs have posted a higher four-year winning pct. than Notre Dame's senior class (.763), a sign that the Irish have not skipped a beat since 2011.
Laura Winter (San Diego) is the latest installment in Notre Dame's pitching pipeline connecting South Bend to Southern California ... each of Notre Dame's six winningest pitchers in program history hail from within a 50-mile radius of each other in California - Heather Booth (Riverside), Brittney Bargar (Corona), Jennifer Sharron (Agoura Hills), Stephanie Steinglein (Huntington Beach), Terri Kobata (Villa Park) and Jody Valdivia (Anaheim Hills) ... this may be more than pure coincidence, as head coach Deanna Gumpf hails from La Palma, Calif., and played on the travel circuit with the highly successful Gordon's Panthers under the direction of National Softball Hall of Fame coach Larry Mays, who also happens to be Deanna's father.
The trip to Arizona will be a warmup of sorts for Dani Miller, who will attend medical school at Midwestern University in Glendale next fall.
Winter ranks second nationally with 0.62 walks/game while Notre Dame baseball pitcher Adam Norton also ranks second nationally with 0.53 walks/game ... while on the baseball topic, Emilee Koerner's brother, Matt, played baseball at Arizona ... even more, Alexa Maldonado spent the summer of 2011 playing with the U.S. Women's Baseball National Team.