Feb. 29, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team moved into the championship game of the Silver Bracket at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over #14/14 Nebraska (8-7). The Irish are now 9-4 on the season and will face Georgia Tech (15-2) at 1 p.m.
Heather Booth was the star for Notre Dame against the Huskers, going the distance for her second complete-game victory in a row. She scattered four hits, struck out five and walked just two to pick up her third victory in the tournament. Notre Dame scratched across a run in the top of the first, benefiting from an error by Nebraska catcher Jamie Waldecker. Stephanie Brown led off with a bunt single and was forced at second when Sara Schoonaert attempted to move her with a sacrifice bunt. Schoonaert then moved to second on a ground out by Megan Ciolli and scored when a pick off throw sailed into centerfield – allowing Schoonaert to hustle around third and touch home. Megan Ruthrauff grounded out to third base to end the inning.
Nebraska evaded an Irish scoring opportunity in the third via some fine defensive play. With one out, Nicole Wicks doubled down the rightfield line to get in scoring position. Brown then laid down her second bunt single of the game to put runners on the corners. Brown then stole second base to get herself in scoring position for Schoonaert. Schoonaert hit a hard ground ball to second base, which Nebraska’s Anne Steffan fielded cleanly and sent a throw home to get Wicks. After a hard collision, Waldecker held on to the ball for the second out of the inning. Megan Ciolli then grounded out to second to end the inning without putting a run on the scoreboard.
Notre Dame returned the favor with their own put out in the bottom of the third to keep Nebraska from putting their first run in the book. Husker starting pitcher Summer Tobias led off with a double down the rightfield line and was replaced by pinch runner KoKo Tacha. Devin Porter moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt, while Steffan followed with her own bunt single (Tacha did not attempt to score on Steffan’s bunt). Sheena Lawrick laid down yet another bunt for the Huskers next, but the Irish defense was ready. Booth moved out of the circle, shoveled the ball to Mallorie Lenn at the plate, who made the solid tag for the second out. Nicole Timboli grounded out to third for the third out.
Both teams offenses were quiet until the bottom of the sixth, when Nebraska put runners at second and third with two outs. On a 2-2 pitch to Waldecker, Booth went to her change up, which Waldecker lined straight to Hartmann at third for the final out of the inning.
NOTES: Sunday’s match up with #14/14 Nebraska marks the second of the 2004 season – and there are still two more to come … the Irish defeated #8/8 Nebraska 6-4 on Feb. 14 at the UNLV Classic … Notre Dame will travel to Lincoln, Neb., to face the Cornhuskers on their home field twice in April, on the 12th and 13th … Nicole Wicks misplayed a ball in the bottom of the fourth, taking two steps in before the ball went over her head … Wicks recovered to field the ball quickly, turn and throw a strike to second base – getting Waldecker by two steps for the second out of the inning.