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ND WOMEN’S SOFTBALL: Irish set to impress in opener

Thomas Barr | Wednesday, March 23, 2005

After 21 away games, the Irish softball team (13-8) will open its home schedule today against Western Michigan.

Notre Dame comes into its home opener on a hot streak, winning seven of its last eight games. The Irish were originally slated to play one game against the Broncos. However, due to several inclement weather cancellations, the Irish will play a double-header.

The likely starting pitchers for Notre Dame are Steffany Stenglein, who is averaging just over ten strikeouts per seven innings, and Heather Booth, who boasts an 8-4 record and 1.43 ERA.

The Broncos come into Wednesday’s games with a 5-12 record. The likely starters are Tricia Vanderslik (2-7) and Kyla Sullivan (3-5).

Western Michigan will face a Notre Dame squad that has been hitting well as of late.

Irish third baseman Liz Hartmann was named Big East Player of the week after hitting .700 and recording 7 RBIs at the Buckeye Invitational last weekend.

However, the Irish are not underestimating the Broncos.

“They are very scrappy, disciplined and well-coached,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said.

“To be successful, we will need to have great defense, pitchers staying in their game and controlling hitters and getting hits when we need it, with runners in scoring position.”

The Irish have fared well traditionally against the Broncos and in home openers. They lead the all-time series 14-5.

The team has an impressive 22-7 record in their first game at home since the program started in 1976.

The Irish are happy to be home, but want to maintain their recent play.

“It feels great to be home, it’s something special,” Gumpf said.

“We have gotten good at playing away since we are on the road so much, but it means something to play in front of friends, family, and the students who support the team.”

The first game will begin at 4 p.m. and the first 250 fans there will receive free t-shirts.

“It’s great to finally play at home,” Irish pitcher Kenya Fuemmeler said.

“Playing at Ivy Field enables us to show everyone what being part of the Fighting Irish is really about about.”