May 9, 2003
The University of Notre Dame softball team (37-13) jumped out to another 9-0 lead at the 2003 BIG EAST Championship in Salem, Va., but instead of getting a 9-0 five-inning victory, Villanova ended up making the contest interesting. The Irish eventually walked away with a 9-7 win, advancing to the BIG EAST championship game against Villanova on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Boston College defeated Seton Hall in game two on Friday, eliminating the Pirates. Villanova then knocked off the Eagles 3-0 behind a one-hitter from Theresa Hornick later in the day. The Wildcats will have to defeat the Irish twice on Sunday for the league championship.
Notre Dame’s stars of the game against Villanova on Friday were short stop Andria Bledsoe and first basemen Lisa Mattison. Both Irish hitters ended up three for four in the game, with Bledsoe hitting a two-run home run and Mattison adding a solo shot.
The story of Notre Dame’s victory over Villanova is simple, a tale of two games within a game. The Irish jumped all over Villanova’s Theresa Hornick, chasing her out of the game after just one 1/3 innings. Notre Dame plated five runs in the bottom of the second inning. VU’s first relief pitcher, Shannon Williams, fared even worse, giving up five earned runs of four Irish hits. That was the first ‘game within a game.’
Notre Dame was cruising to victory, until a sudden thunderstorm struck in the bottom of the third. When play resumed 35 minutes later, the Irish had lost their rhythm – and with it their momentum – as the pitching staff began to struggle and the bats became silent. Then the second ‘game within a game’ began. Both teams started out slowly, going one-two-three in the first inning. Heather Booth got the start for Notre Dame for the second-straight game, as did Villanova’s Hornick.
The Irish put together a scoring threat in the top of the second when Bledsoe singled to leftfield and immediately stole second base. Mattison followed with her own single to leftfield, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Pinch runner Sara Schoonaert stole second base after Ruthrauff popped up to put two runners in scoring position for Hartmann. After falling behind 0-2, Hartmann looked at a ball outside and fouled off a pitch before being hit by a pitch to put three ducks on the pond for Lenn, coming off a four-RBI performance on Thursday.
Lenn came through with her fifth RBI of the tournament, bouncing a hit up the middle to score Bledsoe. The bases were still juiced when Nicole deFau stepped into the box. Hornick’s second offering to deFau ended up as a wild pitch to score Schoonaert for Notre Dame’s second run of the inning.
Villanova head coach Maria DiBernardi went to the bullpen quickly, bringing Shannon Williams for relief of Hornick.
Inheriting a 2-0 count, Williams would issue a walk to deFau to load the bases for Ciolli and the top of Notre Dame’s lineup.
Williams held tough, striking out Ciolli on five pitches to get to two outs. Madrid stepped in next, however, and hit a solid single through the left side to drive in the third run of Notre Dame’s at bat and keep things alive for Loman. The top Irish hitter of the season came through with a single through the left side, off VU’s Ricci Lugo, to score two runs and put Notre Dame up by five.
The scoring spurt finally ended when Bledsoe dribbled a ground ball to first base. Notre Dame ended up with five runs on five singles in the second inning.
Looking to get the hot-hitting Irish back on offense, Booth worked a quick inning in the bottom of the second, getting two pop ups and a routine ground ball to second off Villainova’s four through six hitters.
Booth’s quick work paid off immediately in the top of the third. Mattison stepped in and worked the count to 3-1 before drilling a deep home run to right-centerfield for the sixth run of the game. Ruthrauff popped out, Hartmann walked, Lenn flied out to deep leftfield and deFau lined out to right to end the inning. Cruising through the bottom of the third inning with two outs, Booth ran into the one thing she could not control, Mother Nature. A sudden thunderstorm with lightning moved into the area, immediately sending the teams into the dugouts until it passed. Play was suspended at 3:56 p.m. (EDT) and resumed at 4:35 p.m.
Booth came back from a 3-1 count to the first batter after the delay, getting a ground out to end the inning and push the game into the fourth.
Ciolli led off the inning for Notre Dame and beat out an infield single to get the offense going. After Madrid lined out to centerfield, Ciolli stole second base to get in scoring position for Loman. Loman responded with a double down the leftfield line, scoring Ciolli easily on the play.
Bledsoe kept the Notre Dame hit streak alive by drilling a home run deep over the leftfield fence to put her team ahead 9-0. That drove Williams out of the game as Villanova went to their third pitcher, Kristen Haynes.
Mattison and Hartmann both earned singles off of Haynes, but Ruthrauff struck out looking and Lenn struck out swinging to end the inning.
Notre Dame’s job was clear at this point of the game. Close out the last six outs to get their second-straight five-inning victory in the tournament.
Villanova’s Lugo broke up the no hitter in the bottom of the fourth, drilling a solid double into the right-centerfield gap to lead off the inning. Robin Flier then reached on a fielding error at short stop by Bledsoe to put two runners on with no outs.
Booth earned the first out of the inning by getting Lisa Krueger to pop up a 3-2 pitch to second base. The second out came when Sara Carlson grounded out unassisted to Mattison at first base while the runners moved to second and third. Kari Koller followed up by dropping a bloop hit in from of a diving deFau down the line in right field. Both runners scored easily on the play to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 9-2. Allison Wisniewski flied out to leftfield to end the inning.
Notre Dame was unable to get anything going in the top of the fifth, assuring Villanova of two more at bats.
The Wildcats took full advantage in the fifth inning, getting two hits to lead off the inning and drive Booth out of the game. Jessie Olowina led off with a solid single to leftfield and Sarah Wall followed with a single up the middle to put two runners on with no one out.
Steffany Stenglein came in for relief and got what she needed, a ground ball right back to her. She threw to Loman at third for the first out, and it looked like Loman threw across the diamond to get Veronica Alvarez at first. She was called safe, however, and Notre Dame missed out on the big double play.
Villanova’s ever-dangerous Lugo stepped in next, but dribbled a ground ball right in front of the plate. Lenn leaped out from behind the dish and made a great throw to get the speedy Lugo at first for the second out of the inning.
Robin Flier then slapped a hit up the middle, just off Stenglein’s glove to drive in the third Wildcat run of the game.
Krueger then came through in a big way for the Wildcats, slamming a three-run home run deep over the leftfield fence to transform a former blow out into a ball game. The huge home run was Krueger’s second against the Irish this season.
Carrie Wisen entered the game for Notre Dame and got Carlson to pop up and end the disastrous fifth inning.
Indicative of the momentum turn, Loman led off the sixth for Notre Dame and drilled the first pitch right on the screws, but straight to Krueger in centerfield.
The bad turns continued for Notre Dame when Bledsoe reached on single through the left side. She was soon cut down at second attempting to steal, her first caught stealing of the season. Mattison would reach on a throwing error by Villanova’s Lugo, but Ruthrauff grounded out to third base to end the inning and get the anxious Wildcat batters back into the box.
Villanova inched even more closer in the bottom of the sixth when Wisniewski drilled a one-out home run to straight away centerfield to cut the Irish lead to two.
Wisen escaped further damage in the inning with a strike out and ground out.
Desperately needing some insurance runs in the top of the seventh, Notre Dame was unable to get anything from Hartmann, Lenn and deFau and went one-two-three. To make matters worse, the top of the Villanova order loomed in the bottom of the inning.
Wisen retired Lugo on one pitch, getting a routine ground ball to third. Wisen then issued a four-pitch walk to Flier to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Krueger, who hit a home run in her previous at bat.
Krueger bounced right back to Wisen this time, however, and she whirled to get the lead runner at second base. Needing just one more out and Carlson in the batter’s box, Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf went back to Heather Booth for the final out. Booth had shown a solid record of success against the Wildcat clean up hitter this season.
Carlson weakly grounded out to second base to end the game. Booth, who would get the win, actually ended up saving her own game as well (although you cannot save your own game in softball).