April 29, 2005
Friday was a good and bad day for the University of Notre Dame softball team (37-11, 12-2 in the BIG EAST). The Irish began an afternoon doubleheader against Boston College (18-22, 6-8) with a 8-0, five-inning victory in game one, then dropped a marathon 11-inning game 5-4 to the Eagles in game two. Notre Dame will face Syracuse on Sunday, May 1, needing two victories to stay in the running for the number one seed in the BIG EAST Championship.
Offensive stars of the day for the Irish included senior Megan Ciolli, who broke the school record for career hits with four base knocks in eight trips to the plate – pushing her career total to 269 and passing Jenny Kriech (1999-2002) on the all-time list. Ciolli also scored three runs and stole two bases.
Sophomore Stephanie Brown made up for a few defensive lapses by going six for eight in the two games, scoring two runs. Junior Kellie Middleton had three hits in the two games with three RBI.
Senior Steffany Stenglein picked up a complete-game one-hit victory in game one, while junior Heather Booth took the tough-luck 10.2 inning loss in game two.
The good part of the day was an offensive explosion in game one, as the Irish exploded for eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings to end the contest early. Senior Liz Hartmann finished one for two with two RBI, while classmate Megan Ciolli was two for three with an RBI and run scored. Kellie Middleton was also a key force in the game, as she was two for three with a double, triple and two RBI.
The Irish also received another solid pitching outing by Steffany Stenglein. The righthander allowed one hit and struck out nine in the complete game victory.
Game two was a different story from the first pitch of the game. Junior Heather Booth entered the pitching circle for the Irish and found herself in trouble when sophomore Stephanie Brown dropped a fly ball in rightfield for a two-base error. A passed ball moved BC’s Carly McNary to third base and she scored on a triple by Kimmy Hopkins. Hopkins eventually found her way home on a wild pitch and the Irish faced a quick 2-0 deficit.
The score remained unchanged until Notre Dame’s portion of the third inning.
With one out and Stephanie Brown on first base after a fielder’s choice, Middleton drilled a hit to leftfield that was misplayed by BC’s Amanda Booth, allowing the runners to move up one extra base on the single. The Eagles decided to intentionally walk Ciolli – loading the bases for Meagan Ruthrauff – who delivered by crushing a double over BC rightfielder Britney Thompson. Two runs scored on the play and the Irish took the lead when Katie Laing drove in her 14th run in BIG EAST play with a ground out.
After the rough first inning, Booth had settled into a grove in the middle innings and looked to have the BC lineup under control until the seventh inning. She walked the leadoff hitter and allowed a single to Michelle Daly – her counterpart in the pitcher’s circle. With runners on first and second, Booth uncorked a wild pitch to put the tying run on second base.
Kristin Allain drew the Eagles a run closer with a sacrifice fly and Elena Ferrero – who lost game one pitching for BC – delivered the big blow with an RBI single down the third base line. The game was suddenly tied.
And the tie would stand for a full three extra innings – though the Irish had many chances at getting the winning run across the plate.
In the ninth inning, with runners at the corners and two outs, Middleton grounded out to the short stop – after just missing on a walk-off home run down the leftfield line on a disputed foul ball call.
In the 10th inning – Notre Dame had the first two batters of the inning on base – Ciolli with a hit and Ruthrauff with a walk. Laing popped up for the first out but senior Carrie Wisen delivered with a single to rightfield. The throw from the outfield was right on target, however, and Ciolli would have to remain at third base.
With the bases now loaded, all the Irish required was a fly ball to the outfield to win the game. Daly buckled down for the Eagles, however, and recorded her two biggest outs of the game. She induced Hartmann into a fielder’s choice back to her in the circle and forced Gessica Hufnagle to pop out and end the inning.
Boston College would get a scoring chance in the top of the 11th – and would not let the opportunity go to waste. With two outs, Booth began to tire for the Irish and walked Thompson and Daly to put the go-ahead run at second base. Notre Dame turned to Stenglein in relief, but Macchi was ready for the Irish staff ace – drilling a single to rightfield.
Brown came up clean with the ball and made a high throw to home plate in an effort to get Thompson. Hufnagle looked to have the plate blocked with her leg and applied the tag – before Thompson desperately reached back for home plate. The umpire called the runner safe, however, and the Irish would find themselves down a run heading into the bottom of the 11th.
Daly would shut the door on the Irish, helped by a little bit of luck (bad for the Irish, good for the Eagles). Junior Sara Schoonaert led off the inning and looked to have a solid single up the middle, as she crushed a Daly pitch right back to the circle. The Eagle pitcher kicked at the ball – and it ricocheted directly to McNary at second base. She threw out Schoonaert by a half step at first.
Brown kept a bit of pressure on with a single to leftfield, but she would only make it to second base on a ground out by Middleton. Ciolli popped out to the pitcher to end the longest game of the Deanna Gumpf era at Notre Dame.
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame played its first 11-inning game since the 1999 season in game two … the Irish played two 11-inning games in ’99, losing both to Loyola-Chicago (3-2) and IUPUI (2-1) … the final game time in the second contest was 2:50 … Notre Dame will look for some help in the BIG EAST standings tomorrow, as first place Seton Hall plays host to Providence and third place Syracuse travels to Pittsburgh … Ciolli is now the all-time hits and stolen base leader at Notre Dame … Heather Booth pitched a courageous game in the second contest, working 10.2 innings, allowing just three hits and five runs (hurt by six walks) … Booth also struck out 10 in her longest career outing.