Feb. 23, 2003
The University of Notre Dame softball team (3-3) continued play at the 2003 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic on Sunday morning and afternoon. After waiting all night to continue its game against Illinois State, Notre Dame got a double from Megan Ciolli in the bottom of the eighth to provide the lone run in a 1-0 victory over Illinois State (6-7).
It has been a frustrating weekend for the Irish, who were scheduled to play at least five games this weekend, but will end up with just three games in the record books.
The NFCA Leadoff Classic is one of the premier tournaments in the country, featuring 24 top teams. Originally, the teams were slated to play pool games against three teams, then move on to bracket play. The tournament was only able to start games on Friday, then postpone the rest until Saturday due to rain. A very strong thunderstorm shot through the Columbus area about 5 a.m. on Friday night, pushing the game start times back even further on Saturday. By the time the suspended games were picked up on Saturday, it was 2 p.m.
The tournament abbreviated its schedule and all the teams would end up just playing the games originally set for pool play. Notre Dame’s first game of the tournament (after being in Columbus for a day and a half) was against #4 California – who came off a 5-3 loss to Alabama earlier in the day. The Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first and cruised to a 6-0 victory. The Irish stayed on the field to take on Illinois State, but once again Mother Nature decided that she did not want to watch any more softball on Saturday. Another rain storm moved in and the Notre Dame – Illinois State game was suspended in the bottom of the sixth. The Irish and Redbirds were locked in a 0-0 pitchers duel.
This is the second straight weekend that weather has taken games away from the Irish. Due to rain in Tampa, Fla, last weekend, Notre Dame was forced to leave its 12-0 lead against Rhode Island on Monday to make its flight back to campus. For a team that needs to get out in some nice weather and play some softball, the weather just does not seem to want to cooperate.
So this incredible back story brings Notre Dame to Sunday morning at 10 a.m. First, the Irish must finish the game against Illinois State and get some runs to even up their season record at 3-3. They will then face #17 Alabama at 1 p.m. and hope to catch the last flight out of Atlanta (about an hour and a half northeast of Columbus) on Sunday evening.
Illinois State’s Corrie Harris and Notre Dame’s Heather Booth had allowed just two hits each before the game was suspended. When they picked up, Andrea Loman was up to bat with a 1-2 count and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Loman struck out on the first pitch by Harris. Ruthrauff then dribbled a ground ball to third base to end the inning. Now it was time to see how Booth would throw after the lay off.
Booth would walk one with one out, but recovered for a strike out and routine ground out to third base to end the inning and send the game into the bottom of the seventh with Mattison, Lenn and Hartmann due for Notre Dame.
Mattison lined out to short stop and Lenn followed with a solid shot to the gap in left-center field. She went for second base, but Illinois State made a perfect throw to get Lenn in time for the second out of the inning. Hartmann ground out to second base to send the game into extra innings.
Since the game was being played in a tournament, the international tie breaker was invoked for the top of the eighth. The final batter from the previous inning is put on second base to begin the inning, and it ended up as Kate Stake for Illinois State. The Redbirds immediately sacrificed her to third base, but Booth came back to get a ground out to first for two outs. The next ISU batter walked to put runners at fist and third with two outs. Booth got a pop out to the catcher to get out of the inning.
For Notre Dame, Liz Hartmann headed out to second base to start the inning. Middleton made two attempts to get down the bunt, but fouled one off and missed an attempt. She eventually struck out. Megan Ciolli came to the rescue, however and drilled a double into left field to score Hartmann and give Notre Dame the 1-0 victory.
Booth gets her third victory of the season going eight innings with two hits and eight strikeouts.
The Irish will now take on Alabama at 1 p.m. before heading home.