March 5, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team inched back over .500 on the season (7-6) with a 5-2 victory over Kansas (8-10) at the Best Western Airport Festival late Saturday evening in Tulsa, Okla. Notre Dame’s offense suddenly seems to be finding its way after struggling on the first day of the tournament. The Irish touched Kansas pitching for 13 hits in the contest, which followed a 10-1, five-inning victory over Northern Iowa earlier in the day. Notre Dame will complete its tournament schedule on Sunday at 11 a.m. against Stephen F. Austin.
With 13 hits in the game, plenty of Irish hitters were in the running for player of the game. Senior Sara Schoonaert might be standing above them all with her play this weekend, however. The Irish team co-captain finished three for three against Kansas with two single and an RBI double. She also continued her solid defensive play at shortstop. Schoonaert was not alone in earning accolades on Saturday, however, as three other Irish hitters also enjoyed multi-hit performances. So far in the tournament this weekend Schoonaert has piled up seven hits and three RBI.
Junior leadoff hitter Stephanie Brown continues to be a pest on the base paths for Irish opponents. She reached on two hits and two errors in Saturday’s game. Senior Meagan Ruthrauff also showed signs of emerging from her early-season slump, going two for four with and RBI and run scored. Freshman Linda Kohan joined in the hit parade with a two-for-four performance and an RBI double in the fifth inning.
On the pitching side, senior Heather Booth turned in another solid performance. After suffering a tough-luck eight-inning loss to #17 Nebraska on Friday, Booth was dominating in the first half of Saturday’s game against Kansas. Five of her first six outs were recorded via the strikeout and she eventually ended up with 10 Ks in a complete-game performance. The 10-strikeout performance is the second of the year for the senior righthander – she also sat down 10 against Memphis last weekend at the Florida International tournament.
Notre Dame flirted with taking the lead early in the ball game numerous times. Brown led off the first inning with a double, only to be stranded by a sacrifice bunt, strike out and fly out. The Irish also had runners on second and third with two outs in the second inning, but that situation was snuffed out on a ground ball. Notre Dame also placed two runners on in the third inning, but once again that chance was ended with a strike out.
The Irish finally broke through for four runs in the top of the fifth inning in unusual fashion. Notre Dame put the first two batters of the inning on base, but all four runs were scored with two outs in the inning. Alexandra Kotcheff started the inning with her third hit of the day, a solid single to centerfield. Brown attempted to move her over with a sacrifice slap hit, but the Kansas first base caught the throw off the bag for an error and the Irish were in business with runners on first and second.
Laing followed with a short fly ball into centerfield. As Kansas centerfielder Stevie Crisosto sprinted in to make a play, Kotcheff was stuck trying to decide whether to go half way to third or stay close to the bag. Crisosto made the running catch and her momentum made the toss to second base easy for an unusual double play.
The Irish remained undaunted after the disheartening play. Senior Mallorie Lenn drilled a single to rightfield that skipped past Jayhawk leftfielder Ashley Goodrich and ended up at the wall. Brown easily scored from first on the error and Lenn ended up at second base. She soon moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from Ruthrauff.
After Ruthrauff moved to scoring position on a passed ball, the two-out hit parade continued when Kohan drilled a double into left-centerfield that allowed the Irish first base to score. A pitching change by Kansas to reliever Vallerie George did little to slow the Irish momentum. Schoonaert promptly stepped in and crushed a deep double into centerfield to drive in Kohan and the fourth run of the game for Notre Dame. A fly ball out from Gessica Hufnagle ended the four-hit string by the Irish, but Notre Dame had finally broken through with a big inning.
Kansas scratched back into the game in the fifth and sixth innings. A lead off walk issued by Booth came back to hurt her with an RBI single by Kansas in the fifth and a lead off home run by Jessica Moppin in the sixth inning cut the Irish lead down to two runs.
Notre Dame recovered to post an important insurance run in the top of the seventh – and once again the run was delivered with two outs. Schoonaert was the catalyst of the rally, drilling a single to centerfield. She scored just a few pitches later on Glasco’s towering double off the leftfield wall. The big hit missed a home run by just a few feet and Schoonaert easily scored from first base to give her team a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Booth slammed the door on any Kansas rally in the bottom of the seventh with two pop outs (fittingly caught by Schoonaert) and a strikeout.