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Irish travel to Palm Springs

Justin Schuver | Friday, February 20, 2004

Fresh off a 4-1 start to their season, Notre Dame stays on the road to visit the warm climates of Palm Springs, Calif., for the Palm Springs Classic this weekend.

The Irish kick off tournament play against Utah and Pacific today and then face No. 8 Stanford on Saturday. Notre Dame completes play Saturday with an exhibition against the U.S. Olympic Team.

The team then faces their fourth ranked opponent in 10 games when it completes tournament play against No. 12 Tennessee Sunday morning.

Notre Dame’s 4-1 start, which includes a win over then-No. 8 Nebraska, is the best start for the Irish since 2001 when the team won its first eight games.

The Irish played well in last weekend’s UNLV Classic, defeating every team they played at the tournament except for No. 2 California. Notre Dame played the Bruins tough, outhitting their opponent 7-4, but still lost 2-1.

The Irish face their second ranked team from California this weekend in Stanford, who is a near-flawless 8-1 so far this year. The Cardinal’s only loss was to then-No. 6 Alabama in extra innings Feb. 7.

Tennessee, like Notre Dame, has been a bit of a surprise so far this season. Left out of the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll, the Lady Vols have gone 11-1 to move to No. 12 in the national rankings.

The Lady Vols’ lone loss this year came at the hands of then-No. 23 Oregon State, who defeated Tennessee 2-0 on Feb. 7.

The Irish were carried offensively last weekend by juniors Liz Hartmann and Megan Ciolli. Hartmann hit .500 at the UNLV Classic with seven RBI and three home runs, including a game-winning shot against Nebraska.

Ciolli, one of 40 players selected to USA Softball’s player of the year watch list, hit .625 in the tournament.

Notre Dame’s pitching, a strength last season, has continued to be impressive this year. Despite allowing 15 runs combined in the tournament, only seven of those were earned runs.

Junior Carrie Wisen picked up two wins in relief, and sophomore Heather Booth and junior Steffany Stenglein each collected wins. The team’s ERA for the tournament was 1.44 and Irish pitchers struck out 29 batters in 34 innings.

This weekend’s tournament will be a bit of a homecoming for that pitching trio, as all three players are from California. In addition, Notre Dame has four position players (Hartmann, Carissa Jaquish, Mallorie Lenn and Meghann Ruthrauff) who hail from the Golden State.