May 1, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team (34-17) fell to third place in the BIG EAST Conference standings with a 14-4 record when it dropped both games of a doubleheader at #21/22 Louisville (34-8, 13-3) on Monday afternoon. The Cardinals won game one 2-1 with a walk off home run in the top of the eighth inning, then dominated game two for a 10-3 victory.
Notre Dame has already assured itself of a spot in the 2006 BIG EAST Championship, but the league regular-season championship could be out of their grasp. Notre Dame will need help from its conference mates to catch USF (16-2, first place) and Louisville (13-3, second place) for the regular-season title.
The Irish led game one 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, but Louisville rallied to score a run in the bottom of the seventh without a hit, then saw Lacy Wood hit a 3-2 pitch out of the park to lead off the eighth inning.
Game two was never in doubt, as Louisville posted seven runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back in the 10-3 win.
Notre Dame’s few highlights of the day were provided by senior Meagan Ruthrauff, who finished four for six in the doubleheader and junior Stephanie Brown, who hit her second home run of the weekend in game two.
Notre Dame will be back in action tomorrow, May 2, in its final home game of the season at Ivy Field. The Irish will take on Loyola-Chicago in a single game at 5 p.m.
GAME ONE RECAP:
Notre Dame produced a single run in the top of the first inning with some solid execution. Brown drew a four-pitch walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sara Schoonaert. Katie Laing followed up with a deep fly ball to the wall in centerfield which was corralled in by a great running catch by Louisville’s Kristi Cunningham.
Brown moved up to third on the play and scored on an RBI single through the left side by Ruthrauff – staking the Irish to a quick 1-0 lead.
The Irish maintained that one-run lead until the bottom of the seventh. Booth did maneuver herself out of a jam in the fifth when Amy Summers tripled with one out, coming back after the hit with a foul out and strikeout.
Notre Dame came close to posting an important insurance run in the top of the seventh inning when a well-hit ball from Ruthrauff hit approximately half way up the 12-foot outfield wall at Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium. The ball might have been out of several different parks in the country, but Ruthrauff ended up getting stranded at second on the two-out double.
Moving into the bottom of the seventh inning, Booth would face the seventh, eighth and ninth batters in the order. Unfortunately, Booth issued a five-pitch walk to the first batter to make matters more difficult for herself and the Irish defense. Summers drew the walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, bringing up pinch hitter Jennifer Skaggs.
Skaggs barely touched a pitch that fell in fair territory just a few feet in front of home plate. Erin Glasco reacted quickly and threw to first base for an apparent out, but Linda Kohan dropped the ball at first base to put runners at first and third with one out.
Louisville rotated back to the top of its lineup and Audrey Rendon. The left-handed slap hitter drove a ball deep into the right side hole that was fielded by Katie Laing, but her throw to home plate was far wide – allowing both runners to move up into scoring position.
Booth escaped further damage in the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, but Louisville clearly held the momentum in the game after scoring the tying run without posting a hit in the bottom of the seventh.
Notre Dame was quickly retired one-two-three in the top of the eighth inning to put Louisville right back into the batter’s box. The Cardinals’ Lacy Wood worked the count full and then launched a no-doubt home run over the leftfield wall to give Louisville the come-from-behind 2-1 game one victory.
GAME TWO RECAP:
Game two started off poorly for the Irish in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman Brittney Bargar, the game-two starter for Notre Dame, continued her struggles by allowing two singles and a walk after recording the first out.
Needing to keep the game close, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf turned back to Booth in an effort to keep Louisville from blowing the game open in the first inning. Booth could not close the door, however and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Michelle Vasquez and Kristi Cunningham for the first three runs of the game.
After a ground out to second moved both runners into scoring position, Alma Navarrete singled up the middle for two more RBI. The carnage continued in the inning with an RBI double from Candi Hicks and RBI single from Audrey Rendon – her second at bat of the first inning. By the time Leslie Garland flied out to end the first inning, the Irish had given up seven runs on seven hits and buried themselves in an inescapable hole.
Notre Dame did show heart and come back to answer with two runs in the top of the seventh. Glasco drew a lead off walk and was replaced by pinch runner Sarah Smith. After Gessica Hufnagle struck out, Stephanie Mola reached on an error for the third time in the doubleheader. Brown was due up for the RBI opportunity, but she popped up to shortstop and the Irish were down to two outs.
Kohan and Laing stepped up for back-to-back two-out RBI singles to drive in Notre Dame’s two runs of the contest. Louisville pitched around Ruthrauff to load the bases for Schoonaert. The Irish senior shortstop hit the ball hard, but ended up with a fly out to leftfield for the third out of the inning.
Bargar reentered the game in the bottom of the second looking to regain the form she flashed earlier in the season. She seemed to be improving, but Louisville would touch her for an additional run in the inning after she issued a one-out walk. Vasquez stepped in and drilled a double into centerfield for her second RBI of the game. The inning ended on a ground ball to shortstop and a great diving catch on a pop up in foul territory by Kohan.
Notre Dame cut the lead back down to five runs in the top of the fourth inning on a solo home run to leftfield by Brown – her second home run of the weekend. The solo shot was only the third home run of the year given up by Louisville’s Catherine Bishop.
Louisville pushed the lead back to six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning when Wood singled and scored on another RBI double by Vasquez. The nine runs scored by Louisville represent the most against the Irish since a 9-3 loss to CS Fullerton back on Feb. 19, 2006.
Notre Dame had one more opportunity to get back into the game in the top of the sixth inning, as a single, error and walk loaded the bases for Kohan and Laing. Kohan struck out and Laing grounded into a one-two-three (pitcher-catcher-first base) double play to end the inning.
The top of Louisville’s lineup came through with yet another run for the home team in the bottom of the sixth inning. Rendon led off with a bunt single, stole second base and scored on an RBI single from Leslie Garland. That run pushed the final scored to 10-3, matching the mark for the worst BIG EAST Conference loss for the Irish. Notre Dame lost to Rutgers 7-0 on April 27, 1997 and 9-2 to the Scarlet Knights on March 28, 1998.