March 5, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team suffered its third loss at the Best Western Airport Festival on Sunday afternoon, falling 2-1 to Stephen F. Austin. The Irish are now 7-7 in 2006, while the Lady Jacks improve to 6-10. After exploding for two convincing victories over Northern Iowa and Kansas on Saturday, the Irish offense regressed against SFA. Notre Dame did post nine hits in the contest, but stranded 12 runners on base. Stephen F. Austin earned its two runs on a wild pitch and throwing error by the Irish.
Brittney Bargar suffered the pitching loss for the Irish in relief, falling to 4-3 on the season. Heather Booth started the game and pitched well, scattering seven hits over 6 1/3 innings and striking out 11. It was the second consecutive double-digit strikeout performance by Booth (and third of the year), as the righthander had set down 10 Kansas batters in a 5-2 victory on Saturday night.
The Irish had plenty of hits and scoring chances over the first five innings of the contest, stranding at least one runner in each at bat. Junior Stephanie Brown was Notre Dame’s best offense of the first portion of the game, drawing a walk in the first and stealing second, then posting a single in the fifth and stealing second. Both times, however, she was stranded at second base by the heart of the Notre Dame batting order.
Stephen F. Austin took the first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kendall Driver drew a lead off walk and stole second after a failed bunt attempt for the first out. Nicole Carter grounded out to move the runner over to third base and Booth uncorked a wild pitch to allow the first run of the game to score.
Notre Dame came back to get its lone run of the game in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Sara Schoonaert doubled, moved to third on fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI single from junior Gessica Hufnagle. The Irish proceeded to load the bases with a single by Alexandra Kotcheff, but Brown’s shallow fly ball could not drive in the go-ahead run and sophomore Katie Laing grounded out to end the inning and the Irish scoring threat.
The game remained tied going into extra innings and the format shifted to the international tie breaker (batter making the last out of the previous inning is placed on second base). Notre Dame had the first shot but was unable to execute its offense. Freshman Erin Glasco could not get the sacrifice bunt down and eventually struck out. Hufnagle followed with a ground ball out and Kothceff struck out to end the inning.
It did not take long for Stephen F. Austin to post the winning run. With its own runner placed on second, Lady Jack batter Jessica Tullos laid down a sacrifice bunt in an effort to advance the winning run to third base. Freshman Linda Kohan fielded the ball cleanly, but decided to throw to third base to cut down the lead runner. Her throw was far wide of third base, however, and the ball skipped past Schoonaert covering the bag. SFA’s Tara Hersey easily scored on the play to end the extra-inning contest. The loss was the second extra-inning setback of the weekend, as Notre Dame also fell to #17 Nebraska 5-3 in extra innings on Friday.
Notre Dame will return to action next Sunday, March 12, with a doubleheader at Cal Poly SLO.