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Team earns honors, returns home

Justin Schuver | Tuesday, April 27, 2004

After taking over first place in the Big East following a 4-0 weekend, the honors continued to pour in for the Irish.Senior Nicole deFau, who hit .588 over five games last week, was named Big East Player of the Week for the first time in her career. Junior Steffany Stenglein was named Big East Pitcher of the Week for the third time in her career, sharing the award with Boston College’s Tekae Melandris.”They both definitely deserved it,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Nicole was on fire this weekend, and even when she didn’t get a base hit she hit the ball hard somewhere. Steffany did exactly what the team needs. She gave us strong pitching and really held her composure well in all her games.”DeFau performed especially well in Notre Dame’s four road victories this weekend over Big East opponents Villanova and Rutgers. She hit .643 in those games with four RBI, five runs, two doubles and one home run.DeFau and her teammates wrested control of first place in the Big East from Villanova Saturday, defeating the Wildcats by scores of 4-0 and 2-0. The Irish continued their hot streak, taking two from Rutgers on Sunday by scores of 8-5 and 4-2.”Going to play anyone in the Big East is never easy,” Gumpf said. “That’s one thing that’s nice about being Notre Dame, is that everyone wants to beat us. The best thing, though, is that I think we can play even better than we did last weekend. Hopefully we can really start peaking here near the end of the season “Stenglein took home three victories last week en route to improving her record to 6-0 in the Big East. In 20 innings of work, she collected 24 strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs.She is also currently first in the Big East with a 0.58 ERA and six wins. The Irish look to continue their impressive play over the last week as they take on DePaul in a non-conference doubleheader at Ivy Field today beginning at 4 p.m.This is the last non-conference matchup of the regular season for Notre Dame, who closes out its schedule with eight consecutive Big East games. The trip home is also a breath of air for the Irish, whose previous five games have all been on the road.”I want us to use today’s games to prepare for the Big East this weekend,” Gumpf said. “We’re looking forward to these games against DePaul because they’re always a battle and we love playing each other.”The Blue Demons were ranked No. 12 in the preseason National Fast-Pitch Coaches Association/USA Today poll but have underachieved so far this year. DePaul (20-22-1) dropped below .500 after being swept by Southern Mississippi in a doubleheader Saturday.Head coach Eugene Lenti has been at the helm of the program for 23 years, and has helped to turn DePaul into a perennial powerhouse team. Although the Blue Demons have struggled recently, the Irish know that this is not a team to be taken lightly.”Their record is very deceiving,” Gumpf said. “They’re a good team and their coach has really done a great job with them over the years. We know it will be a battle.”