April 24, 2003
CHICAGO, Ill. –
The University of Notre Dame softball team (29-11) tried to give one away at Illinois-Chicago (16-32) on Thursday evening, but decided to extend its winning streak after all. The Irish walk away from Chicago with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Flames and have now won their last 19 games (tying the mark for the second-longest winning streak in school history).
Notre Dame fell behind by one run early, then saw the home team lead grow to two runs with just six outs left. Heather Booth started for the Irish but got into trouble with three walks, eventually walking in the first run of the game. UIC added another run off a home run by Joyce Cathey before Notre Dame rallied.
Liz Hartmann eventually posted the game-winning hit, though it was not actually a hit. Substitute second base Michelle Miller booted a routine ground ball in the top of the seventh with two outs. Meagan Ruthrauff was on third base and scored on the play to provide her team with the winning margin.
Notre Dame started the game slow, leaving the bases loaded in the top of the first when UIC starter Alison Aguilar hit both Ruthrauff and Megan Ciolli with pitches. Aguilar pitched around Andrea Loman and came back to get a strike out looking from Andria Bledsoe. Lisa Mattison then stepped in with two outs and went to battle with Aguilar, fouling off nine pitches in a marathon 14-pitch at bat. She lined out hard to second base to end the inning.
A little bit of drama was added to the inning when Ciolli pulled up with a leg injury at second base. She was unable to continue and Kellie Middleton replaced her in the line up.
UIC loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but unlike the Irish were able to scratch a run across the plate. After a ground out began the inning, the Flames’ Michelle Miller reached on an infield hit. Sara Hernandez followed by lifting a fly ball to rightfield, but Notre Dame’s Nicole deFau misplayed the ball. It fell behind her for a double to put runners at second and third.
The Irish walked UIC’s most dangerous hitter, Amanda Rivera, to load the bases. Starter Heather Booth then issued an unintentional walk to Alycia Creese to drive in UIC’s first run. Booth got a strike out and pop up to escape further damage in the inning.
Notre Dame was unable to come through on another scoring chance in the third. After Madrid grounded out, Loman singled to centerfield. Ruthrauff flied out to get to two outs in the inning, but Loman stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by the UIC catcher. Bledsoe drew a walk to put runners at the corners with Mattison up. Head coach Deanna Gumpf called for the double steal, but UIC’s catcher, Kristin Cumbo, was able to come through this time. Bledsoe reached second easily, but short stop Joyce Cathey made a good throw home and Cumbo got Loman with a swipe tag to end the inning.
The sixth Notre Dame runner was stranded in the fourth inning. Mattison led off with a solid single to rightfield and was replaced by pinch runner Sara Schoonaert. Hartmann moved Schoonaert into scoring position with a perfect sacrifice slap bunt. Both Mallorie Lenn and de Fau were unable to come through, however. Aguilar struck them both out to end the inning.
Things continued to dissolve for Notre Dame in the fifth. Looking ahead to the weekend with four conference games, Gumpf brought in Steffany Stenglein in relief of Booth. The move backfired, as Stenglein’s penchant for giving up home runs came through on the first pitch when UIC’s Joyce Cathey drilled the first offering over the leftfield wall for a home run. The Flames got two more hits off Stenglein before Carrie Wisen could get warmed up on the cold Chicago evening. She eventually entered the game and got out the jam with a strike out and two pop ups to short stop.
The Irish stepped back, composed themselves and rallied in the top of the sixth. Mattison led off with a ground ball to short stop for the first out. Hartmann then drilled a double down the leftfield line to get in scoring position. Lenn followed with an exact duplicate of Hartmann’s double, cutting the lead to one.
de Fau posted a single next, blooping a hit behind first base. Middleton loaded the bases with an infield hit, which did not allow Lenn to score.
Madrid then stepped in an bounced a ground ball to short stop, Cathey fielded the ball cleanly for UIC, but dropped the throw home. Lenn scored on the fielder’s choice to tie the game.
Notre Dame’s top hitter, Andrea Loman then stepped in the box. She lifted what appeared to be a perfect sacrifice fly to centerfield, but Cameron Astiazaran threw a strike to home plate and Cumbo came through with another great tag to get deFau at the plate and end the inning.
UIC would manage a threat in the bottom of the sixth when Nicole Shepherd singled up the middle with one out. Wisen came back to get a strike out, but Cathey singled up the middle to put a runner in scoring position with two outs. Astiazaran then dribbled a ground ball up the middle that Wisen stabbed and threw to first to end the inning.
Needing one run in the top of the seventh, Notre Dame received a gift from the Flame defense. Rutrauff drew a lead off walk to begin the inning and moved to third on a bloop single down the rightfield line by Bledsoe. Notre Dame’s short stop was thrown out at second base attempting to advance, but Ruthrauff was able to make it to third.
Mattison stepped in, but struck out on a close call (3-2 pitch on the outside corner). UIC was one out away from getting out of the inning.
Earlier in the game, UIC second basemen Meghan Gallagher was injured on a play at first base. Her defensive replacement, Michelle Miller came in from leftfield to finish off the game. The defensive replacement would come back to haunt the Flames. With Ruthrauff at third and two outs, Hartmann bounced a slow roller to Miller at second base. She was unable to come up with the ball, however, and Ruthrauff scored the unearned run. Lenn bounced back to the pitcher to end the inning.
UIC would not go quietly in the seventh. With two outs, Rivera singled to centerfield and moved into scoring position when Creese walked. Cumbo ground into a routine play at third base to end the game.
There will be no rest for the Irish softball team, as it takes the road this weekend for a crucial BIG EAST match up with Boston College. The Eagles are 9-1 in the conference and sit in second place behind Notre Dame (10-0). The doubleheader starts Saturday at 11 a.m. in Chestnut Hill, Mass.