March 2, 2001
The 15th-ranked University of Notre Dame softball team continued its winning ways with a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Irish are now 2-0 in the tournament, as they also defeated Jacksonville State 4-1 earlier in the day on Friday.
It was evident that both teams were set for a slugfest from the first pitch of the game. Jenny Kriech (Indianapolis, Ind.), who had homered earlier in the day against Jacksonville State, slapped the first pitch of the contest into right field. Jen Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) moved Kriech into scoring position with a perfect sacrifice bunt, but UTC starting pitcher Talya Trudell got out of the inning unscathed by forcing Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) to pop out and Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kansas) to fly out.
It was an unusual game for Notre Dame starting pitcher Jen Sharron. Accustomed to dominating her opponents (the Irish hurler had only given up two earned runs in five starts coming into the matchup), Sharron would instead dig deep to wiggle her way out of numerous jams throughout the game. She walked Jolene Martin after several pitches with one out in the bottom of the first, then hit Angela Brewer with a pitch. It was Sharron’s first of two hit-batsmen in the game. Sharron recovered to end the threat by inducing a ground-ball out and striking out Jaci Herbert.
Tennessee-Chattanooga was able to get on the board in the bottom of the third with two solo home runs. Leah Tucker led off the inning by depositing a 0-2 pitch into the left field bleachers. Sharron came back to strike out Martin on three straight pitches, but Brewer knocked the second pitch she received over the right field fence, putting the Irish in an 0-2 hole.
Notre Dame wasted little time in mounting its rally. Lizzy Lemire (Irvine, Calif.) hit the first pitch of the fourth inning into centerfield. Andrea Loman (Riverside, Calif.) then performed her first of two sacrifice bunts in the game to move Lemire to second. Danielle Klayman (San Diego, Calif.) followed with an RBI single to get her team on the scoreboard.
Andria Bledsoe (Higley, Ariz.) stepped into the batter’s box next and drove a pitch deep into leftfield that UTC leftfielder Martin dropped. Klayman came all the way around to score and Bledsoe advanced to third on the error. UTC immediately changed pitchers, bringing in Beth Alexander for Talya Trudell. Alexis Madrid (Temecula, Calif.) knocked in the third Irish run of the game with a sacrifice hit to second base, allowing Bledsoe to score. Alexander then struck out Kriech to end the inning.
Sharron worked her only one-two-three inning of the game in the bottom of the fourth and diffused another UTC scoring opportunity in the fifth inning.
Notre Dame tacked on another run in the top of the sixth after Lemire singled and eventually scored on a Bledsoe single down the rightfield line. Lemire was once again put in scoring position by a Loman sacrifice bunt.
UTC came right back in the bottom of the sixth. Welsh doubled to lead off, and scored when Herbert singled to centerfield. Tara Garner then grounded sharply to first, and Notre Dame’s Loman forced out Herbert at second. UTC’s Carrie Hamilton then pinch hit for designated player Ashleigh Herman and became Sharron’s second hit-by-pitch victim of the night.
Once again, Sharron recovered to get out of the inning without further damage. She struck out Trudell (who had moved to centerfield after Alexander replaced her in the pitching circle) and got Reed to pop up to second base to end the inning.
Hoping to post another insurance run on the scoreboard, Notre Dame received exactly what they needed when lead off hitter Jenny Kriech was hit by Alexander. Kriech attempted to steal second, but was thrown out by the strong arm of UTC catcher Jaci Welsh. Sharron would fly out in the next Irish at bat, but her team posted a two-out rally to secure another run for its starting pitcher. Alkire drew a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Kas Hoag (Wallingford, Conn.). Myers then doubled to left field and Hoag chugged around second and third, looking to score a valuable fifth run. UTC executed a perfect relay throw and had Hoag dead-to-rights at home plate, but Hoag bowled over the catcher, forcing her to drop the ball and scored Notre Dame’s fifth run of the contest.
Sharron seized the momentum from Hoag’s big play at the plate and struck out two in the final inning to earn her sixth victory of the season.
Next up for the Irish will be a 2 p.m. meeting tomorrow, March 3, against the University of Alabama-Birmingham. UAB also is 2-0 in the tournament after defeating Jacksonville State 3-1 in the first game on Friday, then winning its first matchup with Tennessee-Chattanooga 4-3.
Notre Dame head coach Liz Miller was quick to give credit after the game to Andrea Loman’s two sacrifice bunts and Jen Sharron’s ability to bounce-back and pitch effectively after giving up two home runs in the third inning … Lizzy Lemire and Danielle Klayman both finished two-for-three in the game and Klayman added an RBI … four batters were hit-by-pitches in the game, two by Sharron (Brewer and Hamilton) and two by UTC’s Alexander (Kriech and Lemire) … Andria Bledsoe finished the day three-for-five with four RBI … both Jenny Kriech and Nicole deFau were thrown out attempting to steal by UTC catcher Jaci Welsh … Notre Dame posted four sacrifice hits in the game, after only having one as a team entering the Frost Classic … the Irish pounded out 17 combined hits in the first two games of the tournament … should the tournament schedule hold, each team will meet one another twice during the course of the tournament … UAB and Notre Dame are currently 2-0, while Jacksonville State and Tennessee-Chattanooga are 0-2 after the first day of competition.