March 16, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team fell to 9-8 on the season with a 3-2, eight-inning loss at CS Fullerton (15-13) to begin the Judi Garman Classic on Wednesday, March 15. The Irish drop their third eight-inning game of the season and begin the four-day tournament with a 0-1 record.
The tournament will continue for the Irish on Thursday, March 16, in a matchup against #10 Arizona State (26-1) at 4:00 p.m. PT.
Lack of execution, untimely controversial umpire decisions and a sputtering offense ended up costing the Irish on Wednesday against CSUF. Notre Dame managed only three hits against Titan starter Candice Baker, but still had a one-run lead entering the fifth inning.
In the end, the game shifted to the international tiebreaker rule and CS Fullerton plated the winning run on a sacrifice fly by designated player Kiki Munoz in the bottom of the eighth inning. Senior Heather Booth suffered the loss for the Irish, pitching 7.2 solid innings while allowing 7.2 hits, three walks and striking out five.
The Notre Dame offense was provided by an RBI single by senior Meagan Ruthrauff in the first inning and a solo home run by sophomore Katie Laing in the top of the second.
Notre Dame started the contest on a high note, taking advantage of two Titan miscues to score the first run of the game. Junior Stephanie Brown led off the game with a four-pitch walk, moved to second with one out on a passed ball, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Ruthrauff’s two-out single through the left side.
After escaping the bottom of the first inning on two back-to-back solid defensive plays – a diving stop by Ruthrauff at first base and a nifty play on a tricky pop up by senior Sara Schoonaert at second base – Laing put the Irish up 2-0 with a long solo home run to lead off the second inning.
Fullerton would come right back in the bottom of the inning to get one run on the first defensive lapse of the season by Schoonaert. CSUF’s Ashlee Weatherford led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a ground ball – but the third out of the inning (a routine ground ball to shortstop) was dropped by Schoonaert which allowed Weatherford to score the unearned run.
Notre Dame had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth inning but freshman Alexandra Kotcheff was unable to score after a leadoff triple. Brown struck out looking for the first out and Schoonaert grounded out to short stop. Kotcheff attempted to score on the grounder but was easily cut down at the plate for the second out of the inning. Senior Mallorie Lenn then grounded out to end the Irish at bat.
That frustrating inning followed up a great defensive stand by the Irish in the bottom of the fourth inning. Marissa Marzan led off with a double to leftfield and moved to third on a wild pitch. After Booth came back to get a pop up for the first out, Molly Perez popped up toward the Irish dugout in foul territory.
Refusing to give up on the play, Ruthrauff made a diving catch right in front of the Irish dugout. Marzan attempted to tag and score on the play, but Ruthrauff jumped up, gunned a perfect throw to home plate and Lenn applied a great tag for the unusual double play which ended the inning.
Fullerton would not be denied in the bottom of the fifth inning, however. With two outs, the Titans strung together a double and bloop single to tie the score.
When the game shifted to extra innings, the international tiebreaker rule was put into effect. The rule allows the batter making the final out from the previous inning to be placed on second base – therefore speeding up the end of the game.
Notre Dame had the first shot to score a run, as Kotcheff started the eighth inning on second base. Brown stepped in and delivered the perfect hit, pushing a bunt past the third basemen into the area usually covered by the short stop (who, in this instance, was forced into covering third). No throw was issued on the play and Notre Dame appeared to have runners at first and third with no outs.
Alas, the home plate umpire made the unusual call that Brown had bunted the ball with her foot on home plate – therefore she was automatically out on the play and the runner was forced to return to second base. It was a call seldom seen in softball and is illegal, but Brown – a slap hitter and bunt specialist – has never been called for such an indiscretion in her three years with the Irish.
The pressure then fell to Schoonaert, who seemingly answered when she drilled a ball that looked destined to streak past Baker in the pitcher’s circle for a sure single. The home team luck held, however, as Baker was able to just stab the ball enough and deflect it to Crystal Vieyra at short stop, who then threw out Schoonaert at first base. Lenn fouled out to end the frustrating inning for the Irish.
Fullerton then came out in the bottom of the eighth and executed perfectly to win the game. The runner on second base moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Munoz’ well-struck sacrifice fly to centerfield.