March 27, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team (21-9) won its first game at the Hoosier Invitational on Saturday morning 4-3 over Saint Louis (9-21), helped by two big home runs. Sophomore Meagan Ruthrauff hit her sixth of the year, a three-run shot in the fifth inning to put Notre Dame up 3-0. After a Billiken rally, Liz Hartmann delivered her fourth career late-inning game-winning home run in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot to provide the winning run.
The game began as a pitcher’s duel, pitting Notre Dame starter Steffany Stenglein against her opponent, SLU’s Elizabeth Nielsen. Both pitchers kept the scoreboard clean for the first four innings of the game, until Nielsen found herself in trouble in the bottom of the fifth.
With one out, freshman Stephanie Brown singled to leftfield and senior Nicole deFau was hit by a pitch to bring up junior Megan Ciolli. Ciolli bounced back to the mound to get Nielsen close to escaping the inning, but Ruthrauff followed with a three-run shot to give Notre Dame the lead.
Looking to buy some rest time for Stenglein over the two-day tournament, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf called on reliever Carrie Wisen in the top of the sixth. Wisen would struggle, however, giving up three consecutive hits – the third a three-run home run by Christy Ernst. Stenglein was immediately reinserted and ended the inning on a ground out and two strikeouts.
With the score suddenly knotted at 3-3, Hartmann led off the bottom of the inning with her fifth home run of the year to put the Irish ahead to stay.
Stenglein worked a quiet top of the seventh to earn her eighth victory of the year and fourth in a row. She ended up with three hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts. She has now struck out 33 batters in her last 19 innings pitched.
Notre Dame will move on top play the host team, Indiana, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
GAME NOTES: Stephanie Brown (2-3, run) and Meagan Ruthrauff (2-2, run, 3 RBI) both posted two hits in the game … Liz Hartmann was 1-1 with a home run and two sacrifice hits … Megan Ciolli (1-3) and Mallorie Lenn (1-3) had the other two hits for Notre Dame … the Irish push their season-high winning streak to six games with the victory … with her hit in the game, Ciolli pushes her team-high hit streak to seven games and is currently hitting .421 on the season … Ruthrauff has now posted eight multiple RBI games, including four of three-RBI or better … Hartmann’s home run is the fourth of her career to win a game late (at Nebraska – ’02, at La.-Lafayette – ’03, vs. Nebraska – ’04, vs. Saint Louis – ’04) … Ruthrauff has already eclipsed the four home runs she hit as a freshman last season (she now has six) and one more will put her in the top five for the single-season mark (13 – held by Jarrah Myers in ’02 and Melanie Alkire in ’00).