April 7, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team extended its season-long win streak to eight games with a doubleheader sweep at Seton Hall (8-1, 7-1) on Sunday afternoon. The Irish are now 16-12 on the season and 6-0 in BIG EAST play while the Pirates drop to 16-10 and 5-3 in the league.
Throughout the last eight games, the Irish have been able to combine solid pitching and dominating hitting. As a team, Notre Dame has posted double-digit hit totals in eight of the last nine games and the pitching has surrendered over five hits just twice in that same span.
Against the Pirates on Sunday, it was lead off hitter Jenny Kriech who set the tone early. Kriech drilled the second pitch of the game down the rightfield line, and the Irish offense never looked back. After Megan Ciolli reached on an infield hit and the runners moved up on a Jarrah Myers fielder’s choice, Andria Bledsoe came through with a single up the middle to drive in a run and provide starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein a one-run cushion before she even threw a pitch.
Not that Stenglein needed much help in the game. The rookie righthander combined with Carrie Wisen for a three-hitter in the first game and left the contest in the bottom of the third inning without giving up a hit to the Pirates. Seton Hall’s single run came on a Kim Jackson solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
Wisen, who pitched equally effective as Stenglein over the weekend, had an offensive effect on the game-one victory. She smashed a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for her first career home run to lead off the second inning.
The Irish added more runs on a Lisa Mattison RBI single, a Wisen bases-loaded groundout and a wild pitch in the third inning. Andrea Loman drove in a run in the sixth with a single through the leftside, Bledsoe added another RBI in the seventh with a single and Wisen capped off her solid offensive day with a sacrifice fly to score Bledsoe in the final inning.
As both teams shifted their attention to game two, Notre Dame took time to sit back and count their bruises. Loman took a pitch off her hand in her first at bat of the day, limiting her defensively (the two errors charged to the third base in the second game were clearly plays the junior would make without her bruised finger), while Ciolli dealt with a nasty blood blister after pinching her glove hand index finger between the ball and the bat on a sacrifice bunt attempt (the attempt, by the way, was effective). Finally, the Irish had three batters hit by pitches, including Mattison twice.
Bumps and bruises aside, Notre Dame came out ready to play in game two. After a four for four performance in game one, Kriech had another great at bat to start game two. Fouling off four straight pitches, the Irish centerfielder dropped a hit into centerfield to set the table. Ciolli moved Kriech into scoring position with another sacrifice bunt (Ciolli’s seventh sacrifice hit of the season) and Loman moved her over one more base with an infield hit.
With Myers in the batter’s box, Loman quickly stole second base to get in scoring position. Myers dribbled a grounder toward the hole on the right side and the Pirate defense tried to catch Kriech too far off third base. The Irish co-captain was able to jump back and beat the tag, leaving the bases loaded on the fielder’s choice. Bledsoe immediately made Seton Hall pay for the defensive gaffe, drilling a single to centerfield to score Kriech.
Liz Hartmann and Wisen followed with identical bases-loaded singles to put the Irish up 3-0 in the first inning.
Stenglein worked an uneventful bottom of the first and the Irish offense came calling again. Kriech reached on an error by the shortstop on a hard-hit ball, but Ciolli grounded into a fielder’s choice back to the pitcher and Kriech was forced out at second.
Ciolli moved into scoring position with a stolen base and Loman bounced a hit through the middle of the defense for an RBI. On the errant throw home, Loman moved all the way around to third base. Myers followed Loman’s example, posting another hit up the middle to drive in Notre Dame’s fifth run of the game.
Seton Hall did rally for a scoring chance in the fourth inning, but the Irish defense kept the Pirates off the board. After a one-out double, Stenglein walked the bases loaded for McKenzie Richards. The Pirate leadoff hitter lifted a shallow fly ball to leftfield that Ciolli settled under and made a perfect throw home to get the tagging runner at the plate for a double play to end the inning.
Notre Dame’s two extra runs in the game occurred in the sixth. With one out, Loman launched an impressive home run over the leftfield fence for her fourth round-tripper of the season and Mattison added a two-out RBI single in the same inning.
Jessica Sharron came in to pitch the seventh inning and, after walking the leadoff hitter and issuing a free pass on a hit-by-pitch, settled down to strikeout Kim Jackson for the first out. Laura Taylor would come through with an RBI single just out of the reach of Bledsoe in the left-side hole, but Sharron came back to get exactly what she needed. She induced a hard ground ball to Alexis Madrid at second base, who flipped to Bledsoe for the text-book four-six-three double play to end the game.
After playing 27 of its first 28 games away from Ivy Field this season, the Irish return for a lengthy home stand. Notre Dame will play its next 13 games on campus, beginning with a doubleheader against Valparaiso at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9.