May 21, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. – In a back-and-forth affair, No. 11 Northwestern outlasted Notre Dame to take a 7-4 victory and win the Evanston Softball Regional at Sharon J. Drysdale Field on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats went a perfect 3-0 in regional play to advance to next weekend’s NCAA Super Regional round. The Irish posted a 2-2 mark over the weekend and it looked as though they might force a second game on Sunday to determine the regional champion.
Notre Dame (42-21) jumped in front early by posting three runs in the top of the first, including a two-run home run from sophomore Katie Laing. Northwestern (45-12) countered with five runs over the first four innings to take the lead for good at 5-4 in the fourth inning. Both teams combined for five home runs on the day.
Senior Meagan Ruthrauff had a stellar day for the Irish, going a perfect 4-4 with a home run and two RBI in what was her last game in a Notre Dame uniform. Fellow senior Heather Booth took the ball for the fourth straight game this weekend and went 4.1 innings, allowing five runs on eight hits in the loss.
Northwestern was led by Tammy Williams, who went 2-3 with an RBI and run scored. Ashley Crane also had a two RBI day for the Wildcats. Eileen Canney picked up the win as she went the distance, giving up nine hits and striking out 10, while not allowing a walk.
Notre Dame broke through early with three runs in the top of the first. Senior Sara Schoonaert lined a one-out single to right-centerfield and two batters later, Ruthrauff drove her in with a sharp double to the gap in left-center. Laing followed with a towering home run that hit off the leftfield foul pole for her fourth homer of the season.
Northwestern answered back in its half of the first as Katie Logan led off with a home run to centerfield to make it a 3-1 contest after the opening frame. The Wildcats used the long-ball again in the second to even up the game at three apiece. Following an Erin Dyer single, Crane hit a two-run shot that just barely cleared the leftfield fence.
The Fighting Irish showed their spirit in the top of the third as Ruthrauff went yard to leftfield to put the Irish back on top, 4-3.
As was the case most of the day, the Wildcats responded to Notre Dame’s lead with a run in the bottom of the third inning. Garland Cooper led off with a walk and Jamie Dotson followed with a double to leftfield and Kristen Amegin plated Cooper with a single to left. The Irish prevented further damage with a nice play from Linda Kohan at first base. The freshman scooped up a grounder and threw it to catcher Mallorie Lenn at home, who placed the tag on pinch-runner Ann Schraufnagel for the second out of the inning. Booth then fanned Crane to end the frame.
Northwestern claimed its first lead of the game in the fourth as Cooper drove in Darcy Sengewald, who singled, to make it 5-4 in favor of the Wildcats. A second runner tried to score on the play, yet Williams was cut down on a play at the plate on a throw from Notre Dame’s Laing at second base.
The Fighting Irish threatened in the top of the fifth as Ruthrauff and Laing registered back-to-back singles before Northwestern’s Canney fanned two straight Irish hitters to end the frame, leaving the runners stranded.
Booth allowed two walks in the fifth, sandwiched between a fielder’s choice, and was then lifted from the game. Freshman Brittney Bargar came in and recorded two outs on a pop-up and a groundout to squash the Wildcat bid for insurance runs.
Northwestern eventually did tack on some extra tallies as the Wildcats played long-ball again in the sixth with a two-run shot from Williams that upped the Wildcat lead to 7-4, which would stand as the final.
— ND —