May 7, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team (37-19) ended its BIG EAST regular-season record with a 17-5 record with a doubleheader sweep of St. John’s (27-29, 8-14) on Sunday afternoon. The Irish won game one 2-0, then took game two 4-0.
Notre Dame’s effort was highlighted by a record-breaking performance from junior Stephanie Brown and a solid day of pitching from senior Heather Booth.
Needing three hits to set the BIG EAST regular-season hits record, Brown delivered going three for seven on the day. She finishes the BIG EAST season with 38 total hits, breaking former Irish player Megan Murray’s record of 37 from 1997. The record-breaking hit was a memorable one, as Brown hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning of game two for her 38th hit of the 2006 BIG EAST season. Brown finished the BIG EAST season with a .528 batting average, good for fifth place on the single-season list.
Not to be outdone, senior Heather Booth posted a memorable performance in the doubleheader, going the distance in both games and picking up two shutout victories. She allowed two hits and struck out seven in game one, then scattered six hits with six strikeouts in game two. Booth improved her season record to 22-10 and her conference mark to 11-2 with the two victories, also while posting her fourth and fifth shutouts of the ’06 BIG EAST campaign.
With her fifth and six strikeouts against St. John’s in game two, Booth became just the second Irish pitcher to post over 800 strikeouts in a career. She is now second on the all-time list behind Terri Kobata (907 from 1993-96) and becomes the first Notre Dame pitcher to throw 800 innings and post 800 strikeouts in a career.
Notre Dame took a quick lead in game one when Brown led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch by SJU starting pitcher Lisa Geer.
Game one turned into a pitcher’s duel for the rest of the contest. Booth cruised through the contest, allowing just two hits – both of which were posted by Jo Sherlock. She struck out seven and earned her 21st win of the season in with the complete game shutout.
The Irish did tack on an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Hufnagle hit her second career home run, a solo shot, to provide the final winning margin for the Irish.
In game two, the Irish scored the first run of the game in the top of the third. Freshman Stephanie Mola posted a one-out single, followed by a walk to Brown. Senior Sara Schoonaert followed up with a single to centerfield to load the bases for classmate Mallorie Lenn.
Lenn drilled a pitch deep into centerfield that just missed leaving the park for a grand slam. Sherlock ran down the ball and made the catch at wall, with Mola coming home to score on the sacrifice fly. Both Brown and Schoonaert moved into scoring position on the play as well, but senior Meagan Ruthrauff struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Irish tacked on three more runs in the top of the fifth off two big hits. Hufnagle led off with a single and moved to second on a throwing error by the St. John’s defense. Mola moved Hufnagle to third with one out and Brown followed with her record-breaking hit, a two-run home run to rightfield – the sixth home run of the BIG EAST season for the Chandler, Arz., native.
Lenn stepped in next and clocked her third BIG EAST home run of the year (seventh overall) to put the Irish up 4-0 and chase starting pitcher Lisa Geer out of the contest.
The four-run lead would prove to be enough for Booth, who forced the Red Storm to strand baserunners at third in both the sixth and seventh innings.
COMING SOON: A complete BIG EAST Championship field will be announced this evening – and www.und.com will be updated accordingly at that time … at this point, the Irish are slated to be the #3 seed and will most likely face Providence in the first game of the championship on Thursday, May 11, at 10:00 a.m.