April 15, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (25-8) pushed its winning streak to 14 games with an impressive 4-0 victory at Illinois-Chicago (28-20) on Thursday evening in Chicago. The Irish were led by All-American centerfielder Megan Ciolli, who finished three for three with two runs scored, three steals and an RBI. Ciolli’s third steal was a big one, as the senior team captain swiped her 61st career base, setting the school record.
Notre Dame’s pitching staff kept UIC’s impressive hitters under control in the game, allowing just two hits over seven innings. Senior Steffany Stenglein started the game and earned the victory, working four innings, giving up one hit and striking out four. Junior Heather Booth finished off the game for her second save of the year, pitching the last three innings and allowing just one hit.
Other offensive stars for Notre Dame on Thursday included junior Meagan Ruthrauff (two for three, RBI) and junior Liz Hartmann (one for three, two RBI).
The Irish will be back in action this weekend on the road in BIG EAST Conference play, facing Providence Saturday (12 noon) and Connecticut on Sunday (11 a.m.).
Notre Dame came out focused in the first inning, getting a run on the board after some heads up base running by junior Kellie Middleton. With one out, Middleton hit a short fly ball into centerfield on which UIC’s Nicole Shepard made a diving attempt. The ball hit the ground and bounded away from Shepard and Middleton did not hesitate around first base – easing into second for a double. UIC took its time getting the ball back into the infield and Middleton took off for third base, eventually getting credited with a triple on the play.
Ciolli made sure Middleton’s effort was not in vain, as Notre Dame’s top hitter in 2005 guided a pitch into leftfield for a picture-perfect RBI single – the 250th hit of her career. Ciolli easily stole second, but was cut down at third base on another steal attempt – only the second time she has been caught stealing this season.
UIC threatened briefly in the bottom of the second when Nicole Shepard led off with a double into the left-centerfield gap, but Stenglein made sure she stayed at second base with two strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning.
Notre Dame added to its lead in the fourth inning, led by Ciolli once again. The Irish centerfielder singled up the middle with one out and stole second base (matching the all-time steals record at Notre Dame). Meagan Ruthrauff followed with an infield hit to put runners on first and second. Katie Laing stepped in next and drilled a ball deep into rightfield. The ball looked like it was going over Brittany Dixon’s head, but the Flames rightfielder snow-coned the catch over her head to rob Laing of extra bases. Ciolli and Ruthrauff both moved up on the play, however, and scored when Liz Hartmann drilled a 3-2 pitch into rightfield for a two-RBI single.
Pinch runner Sarah Smith was thrown out attempting to steal for Hartmann, but the Irish had built their lead to three runs with a three-hit inning.
UIC threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Stenglein pitched her way out of the jam again. With one out, Sara Hernandez reached on a throwing error by Laing – advancing to second base when the ball ended up in the dugout. Shepard followed by drawing a walk, but Stenglein stopped the rally by getting Lauren Brennan to foul out to Laing for the second out of the inning and Nicole Robinson lined out to rightfield to end the inning.
Heather Booth entered the game in the fifth inning in relief of Stenglein, who left pitching four solid innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.
The Irish tacked on another run in a historic sixth inning. With two outs, Ciolli laid down a perfect bunt single and promptly stole second base – her third steal of the game and the 61st of her career, breaking former teammate Andrea Loman’s school record (see Game Notes that follow for more information on the record breaking steal). Ciolli scored a few pitches later when Ruthrauff drilled a double to the wall in rightfield. Laing grounded out to short stop to end the inning.
Notre Dame’s defense snuffed out a possible scoring opportunity for UIC in the bottom of the sixth, turning a nifty 6-4-3 double play to end the inning after Cameron Astiazaran had led off the inning with a single. Astiazaran was forced out on a fielder’s choice, setting the stage for the double play (Notre Dame’s ninth of the year).
Megan Ciolli broke the school record for career steals in Thursday’s game, singling three times and stealing second each time she reached base … the steals were the 16th, 17th and 18th of the season for Ciolli and 59th, 60th and 61st of her career, breaking Andrea Loman’s (2000-03) school record of 60 … she also closes in on Katie Marten’s single-season steal mark of 20, set in 1996 … Ciolli also has 252 career hits, 16 away from Jenny Kriech’s all-time record of 268.