March 19, 2001
The 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame softball team lost in the semifinals of the 2001 Kia Klassic to ninth-ranked Cal State Fullerton (24-8) after a thrilling late-game rally fell just one run short in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Irish are now 18-3 on the season and complete the most successful Spring Break trip in the program’s history. Notre Dame posted a 7-2 record on its traditional swing through Southern California, posting four victories over ranked teams in the process (a doubleheader sweep of #24 Cal State Northridge and wins over #7 Fresno State and #10 Arizona State in the Kia Klassic).
The matchup with the Cal State Fullerton Titans had everything a spectator could expect when two of the best softball teams in the nation square off. Dramatic home runs, late-inning errors, rallies by both teams and numerous close calls throughout the contest left the 700 softball fans at the Titan Softball Complex in Fullerton, Calif., begging for just one more inning when the game ended.
Fullerton jumped on the board in the top of the second inning. Monica Lucatero was hit by Jen Sharron’s first pitch of the inning, the first of three batters the Irish starter would plunk in the game. Gina Oaks followed with a single to center and pinchrunner Kristy Halagarda advanced to third base. Sharron recorded the first out of the inning by striking out Amanda Hockett, but lost control of the first pitch to Amy Larocque to load the bases on another hit-by-pitch.
Jennifer Holt followed with a tough at bat, eventually drawing a walk to score the first run of the game. Sharron worked out of the bases loaded jam when Julie Watson grounded into a fielder’s choice and Oaks was forced out at home plate. Jenny Topping followed with a streaking lineout to right-centerfield on which Notre Dame’s Jenny Kriech made a spectacular diving catch, ending the Titan scoring threat.
Typical of the pattern the Irish have set for the season, when the opposing team gets a lead in the game, Notre Dame does its best to make sure it doesn’t last long. Lizzy Lemire led off the bottom of the second with a single, followed by Andrea Loman’s long single down the leftfield line. Titan starting pitcher Oaks then threw away a routine groundball off the bat of Andria Bledsoe, allowing Lemire to come around and tie the game.
Kas Hoag lined out to third base for the first out of the inning. Alexis Madrid then laid down a bunt for the squeeze play, but CSUF defended the play perfectly and threw Loman out at the plate. With runners on the corners, Madrid stole second base to move into scoring position for Kriech. The Irish junior answered the call, ripping an RBI single to leftfield that scored Bledsoe, but Madrid was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Fullerton would tie the game in the fourth inning after Hockett led off with a double and eventually scored on a Holt RBI single.
Sharron was unable to keep the the Titan offense off the scoreboard in the fifth inning and fell victim to another hit-by-a-pitch. Her fifth pitch of the fifth inning struck Jodie Cox, marking the fourth of five innings that CSUF placed the lead off batter on base. Yasmin Mossadeghi singled and eventually moved to second when Lucatero grounded out to second base. Oaks delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Cox on a close play at the plate and Hockett put her team up by two runs with a RBI single.
Kristin Schmidt relieved Sharron to start the sixth inning and made just one mistake in two innings of work. The Irish freshman gave Topping, one of the best power hitters in the nation, a pitch too high in the zone that the Titan catcher deposited over the fence in centerfield for a solo home run. Notre Dame was suddenly facing a three-run deficit with only six outs to make up the difference.
The Irish got one back with a two-out rally in the sixth. Bledsoe singled to centerfield, pinch hitter Lisa Mattison reached on an error and Madrid singled to center to load the bases for Kriech. The Irish leadoff hitter drew a five-pitch walk to cut the Titan lead to two runs.
Schmidt worked a quiet seventh and the Irish came to bat in the last half inning of the game knowing what they needed – two runs for a chance to play DePaul for the Kia Klassic Championship. After Melanie Alkire popped up to lead off, Jarrah Myers rocked her third home run of the season far over the fence in leftfield to put the Irish within one run. Lemire followed with a hard groundout and the Irish were down to their last out.
Titan shortstop Hockett then smothered a Loman grounder in the hole, but the Irish sophomore reached first base safely. Bledsoe would then reach on Hockett’s second error of the game and Hoag would be hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Madrid with two outs. Notre Dame’s slap-hitting specialist banged out a grounder to second base that CSUF fielded cleanly and threw out the speedy Madrid by a step at first to end the game.
Next up, Notre Dame will enjoy a well-deserved week off of competition. They return to action on Tuesday, March 27, with the first home games of the season, a doubleheader with Western Michigan at 4 p.m..