March 19, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team continued a pattern it has developed this season against #6 Alabama on Sunday morning. Facing the Crimson Tide in the final game of the Judi Garman Classic for both teams, Notre Dame built a lead, immediately surrendered the lead, then saw a rally fall short at the end of the contest. Alabama (25-4) edged the Irish (11-10) 4-3 as Notre Dame capped a 2-3 run through the Judi Garman Classic which is hosted by CS Fullerton.
Similar to Notre Dame’s loss to #4 Texas on Saturday, the Irish built a lead in Sunday’s game on a home run by senior Mallorie Lenn. Lenn just cleared the fence with a two-run homer off Alabama All-America candidate Stephanie VanBrakle in the top of the fourth inning. Unfortunately, the lead would not last long.
The Crimson Tide came back to touch senior Heather Booth for three unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Back-to-back singles started the inning off on the wrong foot for Booth and Alabama decided to move both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Now the runners stood at first and third and Booth induced exactly what she wanted from Alabama’s Kelly Montalvo – a ground ball to third base. The runner on third took off on contact, but freshman Linda Kohan misplayed a bounce while fielding the ball at third and attempting to hustle her throw home to the plate. The ball eventually fell to the ground, Montalvo reached first base safely and now the Crimson Tide had runners the corners with only one out.
Alabama leadoff hitter Brittany Rogers followed by lifting a sacrifice fly to rightfield to tie the game at 2-2. Instead of the fly ball ending the inning, the at bat continued for Alabama and Jordan Praytor made the Irish pay for the mistake with an RBI single up the middle.
Notre Dame would be unable to muster any offense against VanBrakle in the fifth and sixth innings. Utilizing a sharp breaking ball, VanBrakle would strike out 14 Irish batters in the contest. Meanwhile, freshman Brittany Bargar entered the contest with one out in the fifth inning. She pitched well in the fifth, getting the Irish out of a first and second with one out scenario, but allowed a solo home run to Praytor in the bottom of the sixth inning.
That run would prove to be the game winner. Freshman Linda Kohan broke out of an 0-22 slump with her team-high fourth home run of the season in the top of the seventh inning with one out, but the Irish would draw no closer as VanBrakle nailed down her 15th win of the year with a ground ball and strikeout.
Notre Dame has now lost seven games this season by a single run, including heartbreaking setbacks to #17 Nebraska, #4 Texas and #6 Alabama. In fact, Notre Dame’s five most recent losses have come by a single run.
Sunday’s game was played at Golden West Junior College due to time constraints and the rain delays which affected the tournament schedule this weekend.
The Irish will return to campus on Sunday evening and start to focus the season’s energy toward the BIG EAST Conference race. Midwest competition begins for the team on Saturday, March 25, with a doubleheader at Western Michigan.