Feb. 23, 2003
Columbus, Ga. –
A frustrating weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic ended on a down note for the Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon when #17 Alabama rallied for seven runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat the Irish 7-4. Notre Dame is now 3-4 on the season while the Crimson Tide are 10-3.
The weather took away at least two games for Notre Dame on the weekend, but the Irish looked very good for 6 2/3 against Alabama. Starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein was throwing effective and the Irish offense finally woke up with 10 team hits.
Here is a recap of the game action against Alabama:
Alabama would get the lead runner on the first inning when Deasy Phillips reached on a perfect bunt hit. Stenglein came back to get a strike out and ground out, followed by a great catch by Liz Hartmann on a line drive down the left field line to get out of the inning.
Notre Dame took the lead in the bottom of the first. After Megan Ciolli grounded out, Alexis Madrid drilled a single up the middle. Meagan Ruthrauff, moved up to third in the batting order against Alabama, struck out on three pitches but Andrea Loman came through with a single to put runners at first and second. Mallorie Lenn then lifted a high pop fly behind short stop that Alabama’s Jen Reach seemed to have easily, but it dropped out of her glove. Madrid, running the whole play, scored to put the Irish up 1-0. Andria Bledsoe flew out to left field to end the inning.
Stenglein walked Jen Reach with one out in the top of the second, but the Irish were able to turn an unusual double play. Alabama’s Angela Johnson dribbled a ground ball to Stenglein, who threw to first. Reach fell down on the way from first to second and Mattison tossed the ball to second for the third out of the inning. The second base umpire originally gave Reach second base, thinking that Madrid (ND’s second basemen) had interfered in her passage to second base. After Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf met with both umpires, the call was reversed and the double play ended the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Notre Dame got two hits from Hartmann and Ciolli, but Madrid bounced out the pitcher to end the inning.
Alabama threatened in the top of the fourth with a lead off double by Jackie McClain. Stenglein buckled down, however, and got two routine fly balls and a strike out to strand McClain at second base.
Notre Dame tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning after Bledsoe led off with a single up the middle. Mattison then hit into a fielder’s choice, but the short stop dropped the ball at second and all runners were safe. Hartmann then moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt (after Sara Schoonaert came in to run for Mattison). Kellie Middleton followed up with an RBI ground out to short stop. Notre Dame’s third run came on a double to the left-center field gap by Ciolli.
Stenglein worked out of another jam in the top of the fifth. Alabama’s Angela Johnson drilled a single to the right-centerfield gap to lead off. Pinch hitter Stephanie Van Brakle drove a pitch deep to the fence in right field that Ciolli brought back in for Notre Dame. Johnson was unable to run home, thinking the ball might be caught and the runners ended up on second and third on the double.
Alabama inserted another pinch hitter, Dominique Aceturro, but Stenglein sat her right back down on the bench with three straight strikes. The next was Philips, who flew out to short left field. Ashley Courtney then crushed a line drive destined for left field, but Loman snatched it as it whistled by to end the inning.
After the deft escape by the ND defense and Stenglein, Notre Dame put up another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Bledsoe.
The Crimson Tide didn’t rest in the top of the sixth, threatening again with a lead off single and a hit by pitch. Stenglein calmly got a pop up to centerfield and struck out the next two batters on rise balls to get out of the inning.
Things got interesting in the top of the seventh. Van Brakle led off with a single, followed by a strike out. Philips then hit a soft grounder to Loman at third, who threw to second to get the lead runner but the throw drew Bledsoe off the base. With runners on first and second, Stenglein got a pop out to get one out away from a win.
Then everything turned Alabama’s way. McClain drilled a 3-2 pitch deep over the centerfield fence to make the score 4-3. Stenglein then walked Lacy Prejean and coach Gumpf turned to Heather Booth in relief. Booth threw two pitches, then served up a home run ball to Jackie Wilkins. Suddenly, a four-run lead with two ours had turned into a 5-4 deficit.
It got worse as the inning went on. Eventually, Alabama would plate seven runs with two outs. After the Wilkins home run, Reach doubled to the wall in center field and scored on a Johnson double. The Tide tacked on another run when Van Brakle singled up the middle.
Shell shocked from the seven run top of the inning, Notre Dame was unable to do anything on offense in the bottom half. Stenglein suffered the loss to drop to 0-3.