March 3, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team fell to 5-5 on the season with a tough 5-3 loss to #17/17 Nebraska (10-1) in the first game of the Best Western Airport Festival Friday evening in Tulsa, Okla. The Irish held a 2-1 lead late in the game, but the Cornhuskers rallied to tie the game in the top of the seventh and followed up with three runs in the top of the eighth inning to secure the victory.
Senior Heather Booth suffered the loss for the Irish, falling to 2-4 on the season. Booth kept Notre Dame in the game with a solid effort, however, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking three. Ashley DeBuhr went the distance for Nebraska, giving up seven hits with two earned runs while striking out eight.
Junior Stephanie Brown and senior Sara Schoonaert led the Irish offense, each contributing two hits in the contest.
The tournament will continue for the Irish when they face the host team, Tulsa, at approximately 9:30 p.m. CT on Friday evening.
Nebraska struck first in the contest on a solo home run by Devin Porter in the top of the fifth inning. The big hit was the first surrendered by Booth in the game, as the senior co-captain did a solid job of keeping Nebraska’s hitters off balance early in the game with a steady diet of breaking pitches and change ups.
Notre Dame quickly responded in the bottom of the fifth inning, keyed by production from the bottom of the batting order. Junior Gessica Hufnagle led off with a single to centerfield and was sacrificed to second base by freshman Alexandra Kotcheff. Brown followed with a double to the wall in right-centerfield to tie up the game.
Notre Dame was not done in the fifth inning. Freshman Linda Kohan singled to leftfield to put runners on first and third. Pinch runner Sarah Smith (Oklahoma City), playing in her home state for the first time in her career, stole second to put two runners in scoring position for clean up hitter Meagan Ruthrauff.
Nebraska issued Ruthrauff an intentional walk, a free pass which delivered the Irish first base the Notre Dame career record for walks. Ruthrauff now has 88 free passes in her career, passing Andrea Loman’s total of 87 from 2000-03.
With the bases loaded, senior Mallorie Lenn stepped in after striking out in her first two appearances against DeBuhr. This time, however, Lenn sat back on a change up and drove a single into short centerfield to put the Irish up 2-1.
The lead would last until the top of the seventh when Nebraska led off with a single from Crystal Carwile and a double by Tannahill. After a strikeout and a walk to load the bases, pinch hitter Brittany Pascale lifted a deep sacrifice fly to rightfield to even the scored at 2-2. The game moved into extra innings when the Irish could not respond with a winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Playing under the international tie breaker rule (runner making the final out in the previous at bat is placed a second base), Nebraska started the top of the eighth inning with an infield hit. With runners at the corners, Booth struck out Jessica Yoachim for the first out the inning. Jamie Waldecker then stepped in bounced into a fiedler’s choice, which allowed the Irish to force out the lead runner at third base.
The Irish were just one out away from escaping the inning, a routine ground ball off the bat of Carwile to third base was dropped by Kohan. The error proved very costly one batter later, as Tannahill cleared the bases with a triple down the rightfield line.
The inning finally ended with a ground ball to second base, but the Irish could not compose a rally in the bottom of the eighth inning. Nebraksa’s win gives the Cornhuskers an 8-3 advantage in the all-time series against Notre Dame. Under head coach Deanna Gumpf, a 1992 Nebraska graduate, the Irish are now 3-4 against the Huskers.