May 14, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team (47-17) lost is third-straight game to Seton Hall (42-18) 2-1 in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship on Friday evening. The Irish will have to take on the winner of Villanova – Boston College late Friday night to advance in the tournament.
The eight-inning loss to the Pirates is the third setback in less than seven days that Seton Hall has dealt Notre Dame. The game changed when a strong thunderstorm moved into the Syracuse area, forcing the suspension of the contest in the fifth inning with the Irish ahead 1-0. After the break, Seton Hall outscored Notre Dame 2-0, including a walk off unearned run to win the game in the bottom of the eighth. SHU’s McKenzie Richards drilled a triple into the gap, and the throw to third ended up wide – allowing Richards to score the game winning run.
Megan Meyer picked up the win for Seton Hall, allowing just four hits and one earned run. Junior Steffany Stenglein matched her throughout the contest, allowing four hits and two unearned runs to suffer the second hard luck loss of the season to Seton Hall. The Pirates have scored three unearned runs against Stenglein in their two victories over the Irish righthander.
Notre Dame’s challenge to win the BIG EAST Championship has turned from the easy road – just one victory on Saturday – to an almost untenable task. Not only will Notre Dame have to recover from the crushing late-inning loss to Seton Hall, they will play a game late Friday night (which will begin at approximately 10 p.m.), then be forced to defeat Seton Hall twice on Saturday for the league title.
Notre Dame scored first in the contest, getting a run in the third inning off a Seton Hall miscue. With one out, Carrie Wisen singled to rightfield and was replaced by pinch runner Kenya Fuemmeler. Sara Schoonaert was due next and laid down a sneaky sacrifice bunt up the first base line. Megan Meyer fielded it for Seton Hall, but threw wide of first base – sending Fuemmeler to third on the play.
The Irish called for the double steal with an 0-2 count to Stephanie Brown. Brown struck out, but Seton Hall catcher Meg Berry air mailed second base, which allowed Fuemmeler to score easily on the play and put the Irish ahead.
The hot hitting Nicole deFau then stepped in and drilled a ball into the right-centerfield gap, but SHU’s Mary Carroll Smith made a great running grab for the third out of the inning.
The fourth inning passed without a threat by both teams, but a strong thunderstorm moved into the area – which included lightning. When all was said and done, the teams ended up sitting through a two hour, 37-minute rain delay before restarting the game.
While Notre Dame came out weakly after the break – going one-two-three in the top of the fifth, Seton Hall immediately put together a threat. Stenglein walked the first batter she faced (Berry) who was replaced by pinch runner Caitlin White. White soon found herself at second on a passed ball, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs.
Stenglein recovered to get the first out, striking out Akouna Lonergan. Lindsay Trottier came through for the Pirates, however, hitting a ground ball up the middle to drive in White with the tying run on the first Seton Hall hit of the game. Trottier also ended up at second base on the throw home.
The second out of the inning came via a strikeout, with Kate DePaul missing a 2-2 offering. After jumping ahead 0-2 on McKenzie Richards, Stenglein issued three straight balls to the Seton Hall lead off hitter to make the count full. Richards then killed a slap hit right in front of the plate, and Stenglein was forced to just hold the ball. Trottier took a hard turn around third, however, and Notre Dame’s Sara Schoonaert snuck in behind her. Stenglein quickly made a great throw, Schoonaert applied the tag and the Irish escaped the inning allowing just one run.
Notre Dame did nothing in its part of the sixth inning, as deFau, Ciolli and Ruthrauff were retired on seven pitches by Meyer – putting Seton Hall back in the batter’s box with all the momentum.
Stenglein did walk Laura Taylor in the sixth inning, but turned around to get a fly out and ground out to end any Pirate threat.
The Irish finally came out patient in the top of the seventh, as Lenn looked at three pitches before drilling a single up the middle. She was replaced by pinch runner Gessica Hufnagle. Notre Dame did not execute the sacrifice bunt, however, as Hartmann’s bunt was pushed too far toward SHU’s Taylor coming down the first base line. She turned and made a good throw to second base to force out Hufnagle on the fielder’s choice. Wicks struck out and Wisen popped up to end any Irish opportunity for a run and put the game in Stenglein’s hands – hoping to extend the game into extra innings.
Stenglein struck out the first batter she faced, but Lonergan lifted a fly ball into rightfield – out of the reach of both Brown and Wicks. Brown dove for the ball, which obstructed Wicks on the play. Lonergan reached second on the play to get in scoring position with one out.
Stenglein dug deep and struck out Trottier on three pitches to get to two outs. Kate DePaul lifted a routine fly ball to leftfield to end the inning.
Pinch hitter Carissa Jaquish led off the eighth for Notre Dame, but grounded out to shortstop on the first pitch. To the top of the order, Brown hit a solid single to rightfield to get on base for deFau.
DeFau laced a hit to Taylor at first base, who stepped on the bag and threw to second base in plenty of time to get Brown for a double play. The ball somehow became dislodged, however, and Brown was safe on the play. Ciolli stepped in and drilled the second pitch she was offered deep to centerfield… but it was caught on the warning track for the third out of the inning. Suddenly, the Irish seemed to be running out of options to get the go ahead run – and the Seton Hall top of the order was due in the bottom of the eighth.
Richards quickly ended the game by drilling a line drive to centerfield, over Ciolli’s head (the Irish defense was playing in for the slap hitter). She ended up at third easily, but Ciolli’s throw was wide at third and Richards scored on the play to end the game.