May 20, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (45-13) waited until late in the game, but delivered when the contest was on the line. Erasing a two-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Irish defeated Louisville 3-2 to move on in NCAA Region No. 9 at Ivy Field in front of over 500 fans. Notre Dame will face the top seed in the bracket, Northwestern, who defeated Albany in the second game of the tournament 6-1.
The big hit in Notre Dame’s rally was a two-run single down the leftfield line by designated player senior Carrie Wisen. Wisen’s clutch hit came one out after senior Megan Ciolli had cut the lead to one with a single up the middle.
Junior Heather Booth made the lead hold up with an uneventful top of the seventh and the Irish claimed their sixth-straight first day regional victory. Notre Dame has won its first game in NCAA regional play each year since 2000, but have won their second contest only once (in 2001) in that same span.
Booth played a key role in the Irish success against Louisville. Entering the game in relief of senior Steffany Stenglein with two outs in the third inning, Booth shut down the pesky Cardinal hitters who had touched Stenglein for sixth hits and two runs.
In the end, Booth allowed four hits and struck out nine – combining with Stenglein (eight strikeouts) for a Notre Dame NCAA record 17 Ks in the contest. While Stenglein takes the no-decision, she still was effective at times – including three consecutive strikeouts with the bases loaded in the first inning.
On offense, the Irish were paced by Wisen’s big hit, Ciolli’s RBI single and two hits from junior Kellie Middleton. Middleton also stole her 25th base of the season. Junior Sara Schoonaert posted the other hit for the Irish.
Louisville scored once in the second inning on three consecutive singles, the RBI hit coming from Candi Hicks. The Cardinals tacked on another run in the third inning on an RBI double by Sara Bausher.
Notre Dame finally started to touch Louisville starting pitcher Aja Sherman in the sixth inning. Sophomore Stephanie Brown drew a walk to lead off the inning and Middleton followed by lining a single down the rightfield line – off the first basemen’s glove. Brown advanced to third on Middleton’s hit and scored when Ciolli tomahawked a single straight up the middle. Ciolli advanced to second on the throw home – a key base running move that would pay off one batter later.
Junior Meagan Ruthrauff was up next and she drilled ground ball to third for the first out of the inning. Wisen followed with her big hit, lacing a single down the rightfield line that allowed both runners to score easily.
Notre Dame will face Northwestern at 12 noon on Saturday, the second game this season between the two teams. The Irish defeated the Wildcats 4-3 back on April 26, scoring four unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.