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ND SOFTBALL: Irish have full slate scheduled for break

Justin Schuver | Friday, March 4, 2005

The Irish might not be going on any cruises with buffets, but they’ve still got a full plate for spring break this season. Notre Dame (5-6) will travel to Los Angeles for a doubleheader against Loyola Marymount Sunday and remain in California for a single-game match-up against California-Santa Barbara Monday. The Irish then will trek across the Pacific Ocean to take part in the University of Hawaii’s Spring Fling Tournament in Honolulu.The tournament runs from Mar. 9-12 and will include games against Campbell, Hawaii, Virginia and Nevada.Notre Dame didn’t have much success on its last trip to California and will look to fare better this weekend. Last weekend, the Irish traveled to Palm Springs to participate in the Palm Springs Classic, dropping their first four games at the tournament.But the Irish finished on a positive note, knocking off No. 5 Tennessee 5-2 Sunday in Notre Dame’s final game of the tournament.”Anytime you lose to teams that are unranked and then beat a team ranked No. 5, it shows that when we don’t focus we can lose to anyone,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “But at the same time, when we show up and play our best game, we can also beat anyone.”In Loyola Marymount, the Irish face an opponent they have already seen once this year. The Lions crushed Notre Dame 7-0 in their first game of the Palm Springs Classic on Feb. 25.”I don’t have to tell our girls anything before those games Sunday,” Gumpf said. “That game [against Loyola in Palm Springs] was a slap in the face to our girls – a really embarrassing loss. Our girls know what to do now to beat Loyola, and if they don’t show up this weekend it will be their own fault.”One reason for Notre Dame’s slow start to the season has been a weak offense. The Irish as a team are currently hitting just .232, well below their .278 average of last season. Pitchers Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein have done an admirable job in dealing with the lack of offense, with Booth holding a 2.13 ERA and Stenglein maintaining a 2.16 ERA with 46 strikeouts.One exception to Notre Dame’s sputtering offense has been Player of the Year candidate Megan Ciolli. Ciolli leads the team in all offensive categories, including RBIs (eight), batting average (.382), hits (13) and stolen bases (five). “Megan will always be a good player on this team as long as she doesn’t try to do it all,” Gumpf said. “When she tries to do it all, that’s when she can run into trouble. She’s a very talented player but she also has the ability to make things happen.”She’s so fast that she forces teams into a lot of errors, and then she can wreck havoc on the bases. If she puts the ball in play anywhere, she’s deadly.”Gumpf made some changes to the team’s lineup after Notre Dame’s early struggles at the Palm Springs Classic, moving several players to different positions. Sara Schoonaert was shifted from second base to shortstop, while Mallorie Lenn moved back to catcher from designated player. With Schoonaert’s shift to shortstop, both sophomore Stephanie Brown and freshman Katie Laing will see action at second base.”At that point I was ready to do anything,” Gumpf said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get this team some momentum. I want to put the bat in the hands of the girls who are hot, and if the girls aren’t getting it done on defense, then I’m taking them out.”Upon returning home after spring break, the Irish will have just one more road tournament – March 19-20 in Columbus, Ohio – before playing their first home game of the season against Western Michigan March 23.