April 4, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team finally got a chance to play on its home field against Illinois-Chicago on Thursday evening, and the familiar surroundings helped the Irish reach the .500 mark (12-12) with an 11-6 victory over the Flames (19-14).
After three attempts at a home opener were called off due to inclement weather, the Irish braved below 40-degree temperatures to nab their 21st consecutive victory at Ivy Field (Notre Dame went 18-0 at home in 2001 and won its last two home games of the 2000 season). The red-hot Notre Dame offense shined once again in the victory, posting their fifth consecutive game with double-digit hits. Lisa Mattison ended up as the top offensive star, going three for four with a career-best four RBI.
UIC would manage to strike first in the contest, however. Jennifer Tiffany drilled a single up the middle, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Amanda Rivera bloop single down the rightfield line.
Notre Dame came to bat in the bottom of the first down one run, but would eventually head back into the field on defense with a two-run lead. Jenny Kriech led off the bottom of the first with a single. Megan Ciolli moved her over to second with a perfect sacrifice bunt and Andrea Loman drew a four-pitch walk to put runners at first and second.
Flames starting pitcher Alison Aguilar then uncorked a wild pitch to Jarrah Myers, moving Kriech and Loman into perfect scoring position at second and third. Notre Dame’s leading run producer came through once again, driving in Kriech with a single to rightfield.
After Myers moved to second on an error by the Flames first basemen and Andria Bledsoe drew a walk, Mattison popped up to the catcher for the second out. It would end up as the only time the UIC pitchers would be able to get the junior first base out. Liz Hartmann picked up the slack, driving a ball down the leftfield line to knock in Myers and Loman. Designated player Carrie Wisen flied out to centerfield to end the inning.
Irish starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein issued a lead-off walk to start the second inning, but recovered to get a routine fly out, fielder’s choice and ground out to get out of the inning unscathed.
In the bottom of the second, Notre Dame would wind up putting five runs on the board, but four of the runs were unearned as UIC committed two errors and two wild pitches in the inning.
Alexis Madrid began the scoring burst by reaching on a muffed throw at first and moving to second base on the play. Megan Ciolli was hit by a pitch and Loman followed with a single down the leftfield line to drive in Madrid and put runners at second and third.
Aguilar threw another wild pitch which allowed Ciolli to score and Loman to advance to third. Myers stepped in next and had a great at-bat, fouling of numerous pitches before drawing a walk. The senior catcher soon picked up her seven stolen base as Loman stole home at the same time for the fifth Irish run of the game.
Bledsoe hit a ground ball to third base that was fielded cleanly, but the throw was once again dropped at first base. Myers moved to third on the play and Bledsoe quickly stole second base to get in scoring position for Mattison. The Granger, Ind., native drilled a pitch deep over the rightfielder’s head, just missing out on a home run as the ball ricocheted off the top of the wall. Myers and Bledsoe easily scored on the stand-up double.
The Flames made a pitching change, bringing in Rory Gonzalez-Gould. Hartmann would reach base on a fielder’s choice (Mattison dove back to the bag at second to avoid the out), but Gonzalez-Gould recovered to strike out Wisen and Dell’Aria to end the inning.
Stenglein worked a one-two-three inning in the third, but Gonzalez-Gould returned the favor in the bottom of the inning.
UIC got back two runs in the top of the fourth off a double and two singles, but the Irish answered right back. After Myers was hit by a pitch and Bledsoe singled, Mattison drove in both base runners with a single to right field in the bottom of the fourth.
The Flames would not go away quietly, however. Wisen took over the pitching duties in the fifth inning and struggled early, loading the bases with no outs. After an RBI single and a wild pitch scored three runs, the Irish defense made sure the inning ended. With two outs, Jacquelyne Vaca pushed a swinging bunt down the third base line. Loman did not have a play at first, but after feigning a throw, she whipped around to pick off Kelly Chenoweth at third base. Bledsoe, who sneaked in behind Chenoweth on the play, made a great tag to get Wisen out of the jam.
Wisen would end up taking advantage of the defensive assist by working solid sixth and seventh innings to ensure the victory, while the offense added another unearned run in the bottom of the sixth for some additional insurance.
Notre Dame takes to the road again this weekend for BIG EAST Conference action against St. John’s (Saturday) and Seton Hall (Sunday). The Irish will begin a stretch of 13 consecutive home games with a doubleheader versus Valparaiso at Ivy Field on Tuesday, April 9.