March 10, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (10-7) improved to 3-0 in the Hawaii Spring Fling on Thursday, defeating Virginia (5-12) 3-1. The tournament schedule continues for the Irish on Friday at 3 p.m. against Nevada.
It was a tale of two games in one for the Irish against Virginia. The team came out focused for the first four innings, but then was forced to avoid a bit of game pressure put on by the Cavaliers in the final two innings. Senior centerfielder Megan Ciolli was the key to the offense once again, going two for three with an RBI triple. She also drove in the winning run on that triple in the third inning.
Starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein earned her fourth victory of the year, pitching five no-hit innings before losing her control in the sixth inning. Carrie Wisen briefly entered to attempt to save the game, but issued two consecutive walks in the top of the seventh – leading to Heather Booth coming in to get the last two outs of the seventh and earn her first save of the year.
Freshman Katie Laing was two for thee with a run scored for Notre Dame, while Kellie Middeton was one for three and sophomore Gessica Hufnagle added an RBI single.
Notre Dame moved into the lead in the bottom of the second, but two base running errors cost the Irish a chance at more runs. With one out, Mallorie Lenn (who has been smashing the ball during the tournament) doubled off the rightfield wall and was replaced by pinch runner Sarah Smith.
Katie Laing followed with a short single to rightfield, putting runners at the corners. Laing stole second base to get in scoring position for Liz Hartmann. Hartmann grounded a ball sharply to shortstop and, after hesitating, Smith decided to break for home (against the wishes of Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf in the third base coaches box) and she was easily thrown out at the plate.
Gessica Hufnagle, fresh off a two for three performance against Campbell on Wednesday, came through with an RBI single to rightfield – allowing Laing to score on the play. Hufnagle’s positive play was quickly wiped out, however, as she wandered too far off first base on a pitch to Sara Schoonaert. Virginia catcher Jenn Wynn threw behind Hufnagle, making her break for second and put the unsuspecting Hartmann in a bad position. Hartmann was forced to head for third base and was eventually picked off – ending the inning and the scoring chance for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame did have the lead, however, and one thing Gumpf has been stressing to her pitchers this year is one simple motto – when you team scores you a run, go out the next half inning and shut down the opposition. Stenglein followed that motto in the top of the third, allowing only a walk to the ninth batter and put the Irish bats back in the batter’s box.
The Irish came through with a two-out rally to get their second run in the bottom of the third inning. After Schoonaert and Stephanie Brown grounded out, Kellie Middleton posted an infield hit and promptly stole second base – her team-high ninth steal of the year.
Ciolli, back to third in the Irish lineup in the last two games due to the increase in production of Brown at the lead off spot, followed by lacing a triple down the rightfield line. Ciolli became the first Irish player to reach double-digit RBI this season (10) with the hit and it was the eighth triple of her career – tying her with seven other players for seventh on the all-time list at Notre Dame. The big hit also forced Virginia starting pitcher Whitney Holstun out of the game as the Cavaliers turned to Coty Tolar.
Virginia delivered the third run of the game to the Irish on a passed ball, with a great slide by Ciolli dislodging the ball out of UV catcher Wynn’s glove. Ruthrauff kept the pressure on by drawing her team-high ninth walk of the season. Lenn was due next and she looked for her second hit of the game, but her fly ball to leftfield was held up by the wind just long enough for VU’s Lauren Dennis to run under it and make the catch to end the inning.
Stenglein found herself in some trouble in the sixth inning, when she finally surrendered the first hit of the game to Virginia. Jessica Taylor led off with a solid single to centerfield and Elea Crockett followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Virginia turned to pinch hitter Kierstie Cameron to lay down a bunt, but she popped up her offering and Hufnagle dove out from behind the plate for a great catch and the first out of the inning. The bases soon became loaded when Stenglein struck Wynn with a 3-2 pitch and bring up the power hitter in Virginia’s lineup, Sara Larquier.
Larquier hit the ball hard, but right to Brown in rightfield for a sacrifice fly – ending Stenglein’s bid for a shutout as Taylor scored on the play to cut the Irish lead to two runs. Gumpf quickly turned to Carrie Wisen in relief of Stenglein.
Wisen quickly ended the threat with a ground out to second base.
Virginia also refused to go quietly in the top of the seventh inning. After a ground out for the first out of the inning, an infield hit, followed by a walk, brought Taylor to the plate with the go-ahead run. Wisen issued yet another walk to Taylor to load the bases – and Gumpf was forced to call on Heather Booth in relief. Wisen’s last two walks were recorded on eight pitches.
The Irish were suddenly in serious trouble – after having posted five innings of no-hit ball, the Irish pitchers had given up three hits and three walks in the last two innings.
Booth would have to face Crockett with the tying run on second base and just one out on the scoreboard. The second out was recorded on a very short pop fly to rightfield, caught by Brown just a few steps into the outfield grass. Booth then struck out Preuss on a great change up to end the game and pick up her first save of the season (and second of her career).
GAME NOTES: It was another beautiful Hawaiian day, save for a strong wind at the UH Softball Field … Kellie Middleton made a great running catch for a foul ball out in the second inning, briefly crashing into the chain link fence in foul territory … she bounced right back up after the stellar defensive play … Sara Schoonaert drew her first walk of the season on a great 11-pitch at bat in the fifth inning … Megan Ciolli swiped her eighth base of the year in the fifth inning … the Irish team will enjoy a Hawaiian tourist tradition, a luau, tonight before facing the Nevada Wolfpack tomorrow afternoon … depending on the outcome of Thursday’s games, Notre Dame has most likely put itself in position to play at 11 a.m. on Saturday as the top seed in the tournament.