Road To Oklahoma City Starts Friday At NCAA Softball Regionals

Dani Miller and the Notre Dame softball team hope that Irish eyes continue to smile at the NCAA Regionals this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich.

May 17, 2011

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A fourth straight trip to Ann Arbor awaits the Notre Dame softball team this week as the program treks to Alumni Field as host Michigan welcomes the Fighting Irish along with Kentucky and Western Michigan in the opening weekend of the 2011 NCAA Softball Championship.

The Fighting Irish are making their 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament - and 13th consecutive - while carrying a championship record of 23-30 (.434).

Under the direction of 10th-year head coach Deanna Gumpf, the 2011 BIG EAST Conference regular season champions have made 10 straight trips to the postseason dance.

One of only two first-round tournament sites set to be covered by the ESPN family of networks, Notre Dame will open the tournament at Ann Arbor against Kentucky live on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Friday.

Along with the other 15 regional brackets, the Ann Arbor Regional is a four-team, double-elimination event.

In what will perhaps feature some of the most competitive opening-weekend bouts, the Ann Arbor site is the only four-team pod of the 16 regionals that features three teams ranked in the NFCA Top 25 (No. 2 Michigan, No. 23 Kentucky and No. 24 Notre Dame).

Second-seeded Notre Dame is not only familiar with the surroundings provided by the host site - having played there in NCAA Regional action following the 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 regular seasons - but also with two of the three schools competing this weekend in Michigan and Western Michigan.

The Irish played both Michigan and Western Michigan earlier this season, falling to both by respective scores of 9-4 and 3-2. Notre Dame has fallen to Michigan in each of the last 10 meetings, with seven of those coming at the Ann Arbor Regional since 2003.

Notre Dame had previously won 10 straight over Western Michigan before the Broncos handed the Irish a regular-season home loss back in March.



Kentucky and Notre Dame have met just once, with the Irish prevailing at the 2000 State Line Classic in Bristol, Tenn., by an 8-0 margin.

Now under the direction of head coach Rachel Lawson, who has led the third-seeded Wildcats to three straight at-large tournament berths, Kentucky matched a program record with 36 wins and has been ranked for 13 consecutive weeks. Kentucky also claimed five series against Southeastern Conference opponents during the league slate for the first time in school history.

Michigan, the tournament's 10th overall seed and top seed in the region, caries a 51-4 record into the fray on the heels of winning its fourth straight Big Ten title. Notre Dame and Michigan met in March at Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman Classic with the Wolverines pulling out the 9-4 victory.

Not to be misled by its 22-28 overall record, a surging Western Michigan team closed the season on fire by winning the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament crowns. The Broncos are the region's fourth-seeded team.

The 2011 Women's College World Series will be played in Oklahoma City from June 2-8. Winners of the 16 Regionals will face off in the Super Regionals, which feature eight three-game series. The eight respective winners will advance to the WCWS.


No. 24/19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
[ •]

No. 23/21 Kentucky Wildcats
[ •]
Series: Notre Dame leads, 1-0
Series streak: Notre Dame, W1
First / last meeting: 3.5.00 - Notre Dame, 8-0
(State Line Classic - Bristol, Tenn.)

No. 2/2 Michigan Wolverines
[ •]
Series: Michigan leads, 14-4
Series streak: Michigan, W10
First meeting: 3.30.94 - Notre Dame, 2-1
Last meeting: 3.19.11 - Michigan, 9-4
(Judi Garman Classic - Fullerton, Calif.)

Western Michigan Broncos
[ •]
Series: Notre Dame leads, 23-6
Series streak: Western Michigan, W1
First meeting: 4.8.92 - Western Michigan, 7-2
Last meeting: 3.29.11 - Western Michigan, 3-2


IRISH ALERT text message updates:
Twitter: @und_com / @ndsoftball / @ndcoachgumpf


Ann Arbor Regional Schedule

Friday, May 20

Game 1 - #2 seed Notre Dame vs. #3 seed Kentucky - 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 2 - #1 seed Michigan vs. #4 seed Western Michigan - 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, May 21
 Game 3 - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - Noon
 Game 4 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 2:30 p.m.
 Game 5 - Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner - 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 22
 Game 6 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 1:00 p.m.
 Game 7 (if necessary) - Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser - 3:30 p.m.

*all times local to site (ET)


One-Hitters ...
• Heading into the NCAA Regionals, Notre Dame has won 14 of its last 15 contest and 27 of its last 29.
• After winning the BIG EAST Conference regular season crown, Notre Dame was eliminated from the league tournament following a 6-0 semifinal loss to host Louisville ... previously, Louisville handed Notre Dame its last defeat (April 17) before the Irish rattled off 14 straight wins until the tournament defeat to the Cardinals ... in fact, each of Notre Dame's last three losses have been to Louisville (2) and Western Michigan (1).
• During last year's Ann Arbor Regional, the Fighting Irish went 2-2 as both losses came at the hands of host Michigan ... Notre Dame's wins came over Wright State and Illinois State.
• Senior Heather Johnson homered once against Michigan during NCAA Regional play in both 2009 and 2010.


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