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ND SOFTBALL: Irish host pair of weekend exhibition contests

Anna Fricano | Friday, September 23, 2005

There is a long winter to get through before the softball season officially starts, but the Notre Dame women will have a chance to test their skills this weekend in a pair of exhibition games. The Irish will host both Wayne State University and Detroit Mercy at Ivy Field on Saturday in a tournament that was officially announced with the fall exhibition schedule in late August.

The tournament will begin at 10 a.m. with a matchup between Notre Dame and Wayne State.

The Irish will finish the day with a 2 p.m. game versus Detroit Mercy, and the two visiting teams will play each other at noon.

The records of the exhibition games will not count toward the 2006 season, nor will any of the stats. What the events will do is to give the team a better idea of where everyone stands on the field. But how big are these games to the members of this year’s team?

“Well, they’re very important because they’re games,” catcher Mallorie Lenn said. “We want to see where we’re at for next season. Coach is taking them as seriously as any other game.”

After graduating five starters last spring, players are seeing plenty of opportunities for playing time. With the official start of the season so far off, few definite decisions have been made as to who will be playing where on the field. Lenn, a First Team All-Conference player for the Irish, noted that no one on the team is too preoccupied with the eventual necessity of a starting lineup.

“We’re actually not sure [who’s starting] yet,” Lenn said. “Everyone is playing, and everyone gets equal chance to play each position.”

These exhibition tournaments are an opportunity for the team, which returns only four starters and has seven freshmen, to see where certain players will fit on the field and in the batting lineup.

As far as the level of competition goes, it may be too early in the year to know exactly what the Irish will be facing on Saturday. At this point in the season, everybody is batting 1.000, and no one has yet made an error. For that reason, players and coaches alike are of the mindset that the competition is going to be there.

“Anybody is going to be good competition at this point in the year,” Lenn said.

Saturday will not only mark the unofficial beginning of the softball season for the Irish, but it will also mark the first time that 2001 Notre Dame graduate Lizzy Lemire will step onto the field as something other than a player. Lemire fills a spot on the coaching staff vacated when former assistant coach Charmelle Green accepted a position in the University’s student-athlete development office, and former second-assitant Kris Ganeff moved into the first-assistant spot. Lemire won two Big East Championships with Notre Dame and made three consecutive NCAA appearances, before graduating and earning a spot on the U.S. National Softball team. Lemire joined the staff on Aug. 11, and has been warmly welcomed by everyone in the program.

“[Lemire] is a great person. She loves Notre Dame and she loves the program,” Lenn said. “She definitely has a drive for the school just like all of our other coaches.”

The team is anxious to get the season rolling, and although the Irish only have a few opportunities to play this fall, everyone is excited about the prospect of getting started.

“I think we look great and we are ready to go,” Lenn said.