May 10, 2003
She saved the best for last. The 2003 BIG EAST Player of the Year, Andrea Loman, came through in her last career conference at bat with a walk-off home run to help Notre Dame (36-15) defeat Villanova 3-2 in nine innings for the 2003 BIG EAST Championship.
Notre Dame also receives the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.
Other stars for Notre Dame on Saturday included Megan Ciolli (three for five), Alexis Madrid (two for four) and Heather Booth (nine innings pitched, two runs, seven strike outs and her third victory of the tournament).
Loman was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament for the second consecutive season after batting over .500 in the championship.
Saturday’s championship game featured a rematch pitching duel from Friday. Booth was handed the ball for the Irish while Theresa Hornick, coming off a one-hit performance against Boston College the day before.
Notre Dame struck first in the game in its initial at bat. Megan Ciolli led off the bottom of the first with a slap hit back to Hornick in the circle. The Villanova pitcher’s throw to first was wide of first and Ciolli moved to second on the error.
Alexis Madrid tried to move the runner over twice with a sacrifice bunt, but struck out. Hornick moved Ciolli to third for Notre Dame with a wild pitch a short time later. Loman then stepped in and lifted a high, bloop single into centerfield to score Ciolli and put the Irish ahead 1-0. Bledsoe popped out and Mattison grounded out to end the inning.
Kari Koller led off the second inning for Villanova with a solid double over Ciolli in centerfield to get in scoring position. Booth recovered with two strike outs and a fly out to strand Koller right where she began the inning.
Lenn led off the bottom of the inning for Notre Dame by scalding a single off the third base bag. Designated player Carrie Wisen moved her over with a perfect sacrifice bunt for Liz Hartmann. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Lenn was stranded at second base just like VU’s Koller the inning before. Hartmann grounded out to short and Nicole deFau struck out to end the scoring threat.
The Wildcats came back in the third inning with another scoring threat. Kriste Romano singled to lead off the inning, moved to second on a wild pitch and ended up at third when Ricci Lugo laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Robin Flier then came through with a solid single to leftfield to tie up the game 1-1.
Booth escaped further damage when Krueger flied out deep to rightfield, robbed of a home run on a catch in front of the fence by deFau. Carlson grounded out to end the inning.
Notre Dame spoiled its own scoring chance in the third inning. Madrid and Loman reached with one-out singles, but were stranded when Bledsoe struck out looking and Mattison grounded out weakly back to the pitcher.
Booth worked out of yet another jam in the fourth inning when she walked the lead off batter. It marked the fourth-straight inning the Wildcats had the lead batter reach base. Villanova moved the runner into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but Booth came back to get two pop ups to get out of the inning.
Yet again Villanova got the lead runner on in the fifth, when Romano reached on a single. Lugo attempted to move her over with a bunt, but popped up to the catcher. Flier then lined into a double play to leftfield, when the Villanova runner strayed too far from first on a drive to Hartmann in leftfield.
The Irish finally put together something in the bottom of the fifth. DeFau drew a lead off walk and Ciolli laid down a bunt to move the runner over. The bunt was perfect, however, and Ciolli beat out the play for an infield hit. DeFau did not stop running around second, as Villanova failed to cover third base. When the dust settled, Ciolli ended up at second and deFau at third an no one out.
Meagan Ruthrauff came off the bench to pinch hit for Madrid. She hit a ground ball to second base, but deFau was running on contact and scored on the play just before the throw to get Notre Dame the lead.
Hornick battled back, however. She got Loman to pop up to centefield, then Bledsoe to ground out to short stop (Ciolli was thrown out at home) to get one step away from escaping the inning. Mattison then grounded out to third to end the inning.
Suddenly in the top of the sixth, the Notre Dame defense fell apart. VU’s Koller reached on a walk with two outs, then moved to second when Mattison misplayed a ground ball at first base. Olowina stepped in next and grounded a ball to second base, which Madrid, dropped, picked up and dropped again for an error. Koller took advantage of the play and scored from third to tie up the contest 2-2. Olowina ended up at second and Wisniewski at third to keep pressure on the Irish.
Booth responded with a strike out of Sarah Wall to end the inning.
Notre Dame rallied for a scoring chance in the bottom of the sixth with two outs. Hartmann drew a walk and deFau managed an infield hit to put runners at first and second for Ciolli. Kellie Middleton entered the game to run for Hartmann.
Ciolli grounded out sharply to short stop to squelch the Notre Dame scoring chance and bring up a tense and dramatic seventh inning.
Booth worked a perfect top of the inning, as Bledsoe made all three put outs. She fielded a pop up in centerfield by Romano, a line out from Lugo and a pop up from Flier.
Notre Dame came up in the bottom of the seventh with Madrid, Loman and Bledsoe due up.
Madrid led off with a solid single up the middle on the first pitch, but Loman popped up to get to one out. Bledsoe fouled out to first base for the second out. Mattison then came through with a laser beam single to rightfield which moved Madrid all the way to third base.
Lenn could not come through with the RBI, however, grounding out with a routine play to third base. It was time for extra innings.
Krueger led off the top of the eighth with a solid single to centefield. Carlson then sacrificed her over to second base to put the go-ahead run 120 feet away from home plate, with Koller due up. Booth then earned her biggest strike out of the game, hitting the inside corner on a 3-2 pitch to get to two outs. Wisniewski bounced out to second base to end the inning and put Notre Dame to bat with a chance to win the BIG EAST Champion.
One more time, Notre Dame came through with a scoring chance in the bottom of the eighth. DeFau and Ciolli reached base on back-to-back two-out singles, but Hornick rallied from a 3-0 count against Madrid to strike her out swinging and end the inning.
With the first pitch of the ninth inning, Booth became the first Irish pitcher of the season to pitch more than eight innings. Olowina doubled to left center to lead off the inning for the Wildcats. Villanova immediately moved her to third with one out on a sacrifice bunt with Romano, two for three in the game, due up.
Romano flied out to centerfield, but the hit was too shallow to score the runner from third. To make things even more interesting, all-BIG EAST first team selection and Villanova’s top hitter, Ricci Lugo, was the next Wildcat batter. Booth struck her out on four pitches to end the inning.
Loman led off the bottom of the ninth for Notre Dame and came through as the BIG EAST Player of the Year should, crushing the game-winning, walk-off home run on a 3-2 pitch.