March 4, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team evened its record at 6-6 on the season with a 10-1, five-inning victory over Northern Iowa (4-8-1) on day two of the Best Western Airport Festival in Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday morning. After struggling on offense in the first two games of the tournament on Friday, the Irish bats woke up in a big way against the Purple Panthers. Keyed by a three-run home run by senior Meagan Ruthrauff in the bottom of the first, Notre Dame exploded for 10 runs in just three innings to claim its sixth win of the year. Freshman Brittney Bargar picked up her fourth pitching win of the year with three innings of work, allowing three hits and striking out five.
Other top offensive performances from the Irish included freshman Alexandra Kotcheff and junior Stephanie Brown. Kotcheff finished two for three with two RBI and two runs scored. Brown ended up one for one with two RBI (coming on sacrifice flies) and a run scored.
Notre Dame will continue the tournament late Saturday night with a matchup against Kansas, who took down #17 Nebraska 4-0 earlier in the afternoon on Saturday. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT, but will more likely begin around 9 p.m. CT.
Notre Dame’s clean up hitter, senior Meagan Ruthrauff, had been looking to break out over the past two weeks. Already this weekend, Ruthrauff had set the Notre Dame career record for walks (87) with an intentional pass against #17 Nebraska. Aggressive in her first at bat against UNI with two runners on, Ruthrauff crushed the first pitch she was offered by Ibekwe deep down the leftfield line for her second home run of the season.
Ibekwe escaped the first inning with a pop up and fly out, but Notre Dame came back to touch the Panther righthander for three more runs in the bottom of the second inning. Freshman Erin Glasco led off with an infield single. Junior Gessica Hufnagle laid down a solid bunt to move her into scoring position, but the bunt was dropped by Tulsa first base Liz Adams. Sophomore Brittany Glynn entered the game to run for Glasco at second base and scored when freshman Alexandra Kotcheff singled to leftfield. Aggressive on the basepaths, Hufnagle moved up to third on the Kotcheff hit and the Irish centerfield ended up at second base to set the table for junior Stephanie Brown.
Brown popped up a short fly ball into leftfield that appeared to be too shallow for score Hufnagle from third. Northern Iowa leftfielder Brittany Ruzicka caught the ball and staggered, unable to get a good throw off to home plate. Hufnagle easily scored on the sacrifice fly and Kothceff moved up to third. She would not remain on the corner long, however, as sophomore Katie Laing drilled a single past the shortstop to give the Irish a six-run lead. Ruthrauff came close to extending the lead even further when she drilled a double into the right-centerfield gap, but NIU’s Many Kumamoto made a great running catch to rob the Irish clean up hitter of additional RBI. Kumamoto also doubled off Kohan – who had earned her second walk of the game after Laing’s hit – at first base.
Northern Iowa put together its first and only scoring chance of the game in the top of the third on back-to-back singles from lead off hitter Jamie Kelling and Nikki Fernden with one out. Kelling moved to third on Fernden’s single through the right side, putting runners on the corners for Rachael Rogers. Rogers grounded sharply to Laing at second base, who picked up the ball, looked Kelling back to third and eventually threw to third as well. Kelling dove back to the bag on a close play and Rogers reached on the fielder’s choice, leaving the bases loaded with still just one out.
Bargar buckled down to get a big strikeout and her defense provided the final out. Stephanie Aguero roped a line drive toward leftfield, but Schoonaert moved over a step and stabbed the ball for a great catch to end the inning.
Notre Dame immediately grabbed the game’s momentum back in the bottom of the third. Lenn led off by drilling a double into the right-centerfield gap and was replaced by pinch runner Sarah Smith. Schoonaert followed with a single up the middle to drive in Smith with Notre Dame’s seventh run of the game. Glasco was due next and bounced into a fielder’s choice, but the ball was dropped at second base to give Notre Dame two runners on with no outs. The first out came on a line out from Hufnagle, but Kotcheff came through with her second RBI single of the game – this time to rightfield. Schoonaert easily scored on the play and both runners moved up one base on the throw home.
Brown stepped in facing the exact same scenario as her previous at bat with runners at second and third. She came through with a similar hit, driving a long fly ball into centerfield for her second consecutive sacrifice fly and RBI. Kotcheff moved up to third on the play and scored two pitches later on a wild throw from Northern Iowa reliever Liz Adams.
Junior Kenya Fuemmeler entered the game to finish off the pitching duties for Notre Dame, working the final two innings. Northern Iowa was able to load the bases and scratch across a run against Fuemmeler, but the Irish righthander buckled down to get a strikeout and ground out to end the game.