April 29, 2003
Just when Notre Dame thought they had the game won, the tide turned for the home team. On a dreary, cold and windy day in Chicago, the University of Notre Dame softball team (31-13) lost a hard-fought 4-3, nine-inning game to #7 DePaul (40-5-1) Tuesday afternoon. The Irish had jumped to a two-run lead in the top of the seventh, only to see the Blue Demons rally to tie in the bottom of the stanza. DePaul eventually won when a single by Katy Kukman drove in the winning run after a Notre Dame rain-soaked error put runners in scoring position.
The second game of the scheduled doubleheader was called due to a combination of darkness and rain.
The Irish were looking ahead to this game for the opportunity to measure themselves among the best teams in the nation. Notre Dame was also looking to make up for an 11-2 loss to DePaul early in the season (March 14) with a depleted roster. For those two goals, the Irish can walk away thinking “mission accomplished.”
But it would be hard to overlook the inability of Notre Dame to close the door on the Blue Demons. With the score knotted at 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Andria Bledsoe was hit by pitch. Lisa Mattison then reached base on a fielding error by the DePaul third basemen to put runners at corners (Bledsoe had moved to third on the play). Pinch runner Kellie Middleton immediately stole second base to put both runners in scoring position.
After Liz Hartmann lined out to second base, Mallorie Lenn stepped in needing a big hit. Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf took a look at the DePaul defense and called for the suicide squeeze bunt. Lenn laid down a perfect offering, as Bledsoe scored easily on the play and Middleton moved to third.
With two outs, Nicole deFau was due up. Already the owner of one hit in the game, deFau drilled a double into the right-centerfield gap to put the Irish up by two runs. Megan Ciolli struck out to end the inning.
Unfortunately, the first Irish lead of the game was short-lived. Notre Dame starting pitcher Heather Booth, who put in a solid effort against one of the top offensive teams in the country, walked Gina Ramacci to begin the inning. Dana Kenney was struck in the ankle by the next pitch to put runners at first and second. DePaul’s super-fast lead off hitter Liz Bouck was due next and she reached on a perfect bunt single to load the bases with no outs.
Sarah Martz then came through for DePaul with a single up the middle, tying up the game with still no outs on the board.
Carrie Wisen came in for relief, but walked the first batter she faced to load the bases. DePaul seemed destined to scratch across the winning run, but…..
Wisen got Sarah Douglas to ground weakly right back to her. The Irish righthander fielded the ball cleanly and threw home, getting Bouck on the force play.
Next up was Kukman and Wisen got another ground ball back to her, this time hard enough to turn a double play. Lenn picked up the force at home and threw to Lisa Mattison at first, the ball ricocheted off her glove, however, and Kukman reached first safely. DePaul had still not scored the go-ahead run.
Wisen escaped the inning when Lindsay Chouinard bounced into a fielder’s choice and the force play at second.
Wisen’s deft escape gave the Irish offense new life, but Notre Dame could not get the big hit it needed. Chouinard struck out Mattison with a runner in scoring position in the eighth and the Irish went one-two-three in the top of the ninth.
DePaul’s initial run of the game came on a perfectly executed double steal in the third inning, with Kenney taking home plate.
Notre Dame tied up the game in the top of the fourth on an RBI double by Bledsoe, enabling Loman to score after her one-out single.
The Irish will be back home looking to seal up the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title this weekend. Notre Dame takes on Villanova Friday at 4 p.m. and Rutgers Sunday at 11 a.m.