March 6, 2004
he University of Notre Dame softball team (10-6), riding high earlier this week after winning the NFCA Leadoff Classic Silver Bracket Championship, took two steps back on Saturday, dropping two games to begin the Florida Atlantic/Worth Invitational in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Irish, who debuted in the top 25 for the first time this week at #23, struggled with all aspects of their game on Saturday, getting just five hits against Florida International (5-13) and committing three defensive errors vs. Massachusetts (5-7).
Notre Dame led the first game of the day against Florida International 1-0 entering the sixth inning, scoring in the bottom of the first off a double steal. Nicole deFau singled, stole second and moved to third on an error by the FAU centerfielder. Meagan Ruthrauff then drew a walk and broke for second – stealing her first base of the season. deFau stole home on the play to put Notre Dame up 1-0.
Irish starting pitcher Heather Booth was throwing well entering the sixth inning, but surrendered three straight two-out singles to fall behind 2-1. Deomni Vetters singled and stole second base – eventually tying the game on an RBI single by Jennifer Owens. Owens moved to second on the throw home and scored when pinch hitter Perry came through with an RBI single.
Ruthrauff led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and was moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Mallorie Lenn. Pinch runner Kenya Fuemmeler (in for Ruthrauff) moved to third on a ground out by Sara Schoonaert, but was stranded there when Carrie Wisen flied out.
Booth suffered her second loss of the season, giving up two runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
The second game of the day turned into a defensive struggle for Notre Dame, who out-hit Massachusetts 8-4, but lost 4-2 on the scoreboard due to three defensive errors. UMass scored two runs in the bottom of the third – with two outs – when Notre Dame starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein walked two hitters with one runner on, then issued a walk and a hit by pitch to give UMass two runs on just one hit in the inning.
Massachusetts tacked on another two runs in the fourth when Kristi Stefanoni got on base with a single and stole second and third base to get in scoring position. After a walk and pitching change (with Carrie Wisen coming in for Stenglein), a wild pitch allowed Stefanoni to score while Aisha Franke moved to third on an error by Irish catcher Carissa Jaquish. Franke then scored on a fielder’s choice.
Notre Dame would attempt a rally in the sixth inning, when Megan Ciolli came through with an RBI single and eventually scored on an RBI double by Nicole Wicks. With Wicks in scoring position and two outs, Mallorie Lenn flied out to rightfield and the inning was over. The Irish then went in order in the seventh.
UMass starting pitcher Jenna Busa earns her third victory of the season (3-4) with the win, scattering eight hits, walking one and striking out two. Stenglein lost her fourth game of the year (3-4).
The Irish were without the service of two starters on Saturday, as Liz Hartmann was sidelined with the flu and an injured Kellie Middleton did not make the trip … Meagan Ruthrauff moved across the infield to play third in place of Hartmann and kept her hot hitting alive, going three for four on the day … Nicole Wicks continues to hit the ball well, going three for six with an RBI double … perhaps Notre Dame’s travels played a part in their performance on Saturday, as the team arrived at their hotel very late on Friday evening (2 a.m.) – then had to prepare for game one today at 8 a.m. … the Irish also faced their first hot weather of the season, experiencing 90 degree weather on Saturday … Notre Dame gets a chance at getting back on track Sunday, taking on North Carolina and Florida Atlantic.