March 13, 2001
The 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame softball team claimed its 14th victory of the season 2-0 over Long Beach State at Mayfair Park in Lakewood, Calif., Tuesday night. The win gives the Irish a 14-1 record in their first 15 games, which is by far the best start to a season in the program’s history.
The Irish exhibited a number of attributes in the game that will come in handy when the Kia Klassic, a tournament featuring some of the top teams in the nation, begins on Thursday, March 15, in Fullerton, Calif.
First, starting pitcher Jen Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) was able to hold the 49ers to just three hits without posting her usual high-strikeout ratio (she only sat down three Long Beach batters in the contest).
Second, the Irish took advantage of their defensive prowess to keep Long Beach off the scoreboard until the offense could push some runs across home plate.
Finally, Notre Dame was able to manufacture enough runs to win the game without a strong contribution from the middle of the lineup.
Long Beach starting pitcher Kelly Nasrawi and Sharron kept both team’s bats quiet until the bottom of the fourth inning. Jaclyn Fredrickson reached on a Sharron throwing error to start the inning for the 49ers. Nicole Spencer followed with a single up the middle to move Fredrickson into scoring position. Darcey Brown attempted a sacrifice bunt to move Fredrickson to third, but Notre Dame’s Andrea Loman (Riverside, Calif.) fielded the ball cleanly and threw to third base to pick off the lead runner.
The 49ers kept the pressure on when Jessica Smith bounced an infield single over Sharron’s head to load the bases.
Once again, the Irish defense stepped to the challenge. Andria Bledsoe (Higley, Ariz.) plucked a sharp grounder from Jamie Farnworth and threw directly home to Irish catcher Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kan.) to force the lead runner out once again. Kristina McCarty stepped in to pinch-hit for Long Beach, but Sharron rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the count to get McCarty to pop up and end the 49er scoring threat.
Notre Dame’s offense would get on track in the top of the fifth, but it was the bottom half of the batting order that would provide the winning run in the game. Loman led off the fifth inning with a double to leftfield to put herself in position to score Notre Dame’s first run of the game. She moved to third base when Sharron grounded out straight to first base. After Bledsoe grounded out to third base, Alexis Madrid (Temecula, Calif.) posted her third RBI of the season (and second game-winning RBI) when she beat out a high grounder to second base, allowing Loman to score.
Sharron would ensure that Long Beach would not receive another chance to score in the game. Only one 49er batter reached base after the fourth inning (Natalie Walker drew a base one balls in the fifth but was eventually thrown out attempting to steal) and the Irish pitching ace, who improved to 8-0 on the season and lowered her team-leading ERA to 1.00) worked perfect one-two-three innings in the bottom of the sixth and seventh.
Notre Dame’s insurance run came in the sixth when Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) led off with a single and pinch-runner Nicole deFau (Southington, Conn.) moved to second on a passed ball. Loman would drive in deFau with her second hit of the game, a single to rightfield. Next up for the Irish will be the first game of the Kia Klassic, against the Utah State Aggies, at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 15.
GAME NOTES: Jenny Kriech’s two-for-three performance, with both hits coming after she took a nasty fall down the dugout steps, raised her team-leading batting average to .429 … Jarrah Myers posted one hit in one official at-bat (she walked twice) to raise her season average to .400 … Jen Sharron has now thrown six complete games in eight starts this season, including three shutouts … the Irish lefthander has only given up 34 hits in 54.0 innings pitched this season … sophomore Lisa Mattison had her second pinch-hit in as many games with a single in the seventh inning.