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Western Michigan awaits

Justin Schuver | Thursday, April 1, 2004

What a difference a year makes. Last season, inclement weather and other factors led to the cancellation of nearly half of Notre Dame’s schedule. According to coach Deanna Gumpf, this year’s Irish have played about 10 more games than the team had played at this point last season.”I can’t tell you how much of a difference it’s been this year,” she said. “We have had 10 more games for our team to improve through the season.”We’ve played 32 games so far, and we’re only halfway through the year. Thirty of those games have been on the road, so we’re really looking forward to getting back home and taking advantage of playing on our own field.”The Irish (23-9) still have a few road games before they return to Ivy Field. The team heads to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan (12-15) today before returning home to face Connecticut in the team’s Big East opener Friday afternoon. Both series are doubleheaders.So far this season, the Irish are batting .266 as a team, with an ERA of 1.13 in 32 games.Notre Dame is coming off a first-place finish at the Hoosier Invitational in Bloomington over the weekend. The Irish defeated St. Louis, Indiana and Western Kentucky.Two individuals reaped the rewards of the team’s recent play, as Steffany Stenglein was named Big East pitcher of the week and Meagan Ruthrauff was named the offensive player of the week.Stenglein’s award-winning week began when she collected her second career perfect game in a six-inning 9-0 victory over Valparaiso on March 23. She also threw seven scoreless innings against St. Louis, finishing with a combined 22 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched over the two games.”Steffany has really made a commitment to be more consistent,” Gumpf said. “She’s done a great job of being more under control. When she gets ahead of hitters, she’s a much better pitcher.”Ruthrauff batted 7-for-12 in the games at Valparaiso and the Hoosier Invitational. She collected three home runs and 10 RBIs during that span.”Meaghan has been great for us all year,” Gumpf said. “She’s proving to be an excellent player for the team day-in and day-out.”Western Michigan is coming off a home-opening two-game sweep of Oakland Tuesday, in which its pitchers allowed three hits and no runs.Pitcher Laura Stewart threw a no-hitter in the first game. She has been the Broncos’ leader on the mound so far this season with a 2.02 ERA and an 8-7 record on the season.While the Broncos have had good pitching all season, the offense has not been able to keep up, resulting in the team’s losing record so far this year. As a team, Western Michigan has only hit .229 this season.