May 2, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team (35-13) utilized another big hit from its freshman class to knock off its second ranked team in the last nine days with a 3-1 victory over #18 DePaul (40-9) at Ivy Field on Thursday. This time it was rookie Megan Ciolli who provided the big hit with a bases loaded triple with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to drive in all of Notre Dame’s runs. Ciolli’s big hit follows freshman Liz Hartmann’s game-winning three-run home run against #4 Nebraska on April 23. The Irish have now won 13 games in a row and 27 of their last 28.
Notre Dame starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein (21-9) allowed 10 hits over the course of seven innings, but allowed just one run as she was backed up by a strong defensive effort from the Irish. Ciolli’s triple was not the only great play the rookie made during the contest. In the top of the first, she ran down a ball destined for the gap by DePaul’s Sarah Martz to make an over the shoulder catch. The Terre Haute, Ind., native also made a diving catch to end the game on a line drive by Martz.
The Irish also were able to get out of two jams during the game due to some stellar plays from the defensive infield. After DePaul scored its first run off a single up the middle, the Blue Demons were poised to add even more with runners at first and third and one out. Stenglein induced a pop up by Christina Douglas to get to two outs, but DePaul head coach Eugene Lenti decided to test Irish catcher Jarrah Myers with a steal. Myers easily gunned down Jenny Doezie to end the inning.
Even as the Notre Dame defense kept the Blue Demons to just one run, the Irish offense had a tough time getting a rally started against DePaul’s Lindsay Chouinard. Chouinard came into the game with a 54 1/3 streak of inning without allowing an earned run and she kept the Notre Dame hitters off balance by continually pounding pitches down and inside – while occasionally mixing in an effective change up.
DePaul threatened to add to its one-run lead in the sixth. April Valdez led off by with a single through the right side that just escaped Madrid’s glove. Saskia Roberson followed with a bloop single to centerfield and was replaced by pinch runner Molly Sircher.
Jenny Doezie fouled out to first base for the first out, but Valdez took advantage of Lisa Mattison’s catch at the fence and advanced to third base. With runners at the corners, Lenti called for the double steal and the Irish defense rose to the occasion once again.
Sircher broke for second base and Myers seemed to be throwing to Bledsoe for the tag attempt, but Madrid intercepted the toss between the pitching circle and second base to catch Valdez too far off third base. Loman and Myers caught Valdez in a run down for the second out of the inning, while Sircher moved all the way to third base.
Gina Ramacci drew a two-out walk to put runners at the corners again. Facing the same first and third situation, Lenti called for the steal once again. The Irish defense performed the same play as before, but this time Madrid simply picked Sircher off third base with a great throw and even better tag from Loman to end the inning.
It was now just a question of whether the Irish defense had provided a little momentum for the offense. The outlook wasn’t good early, as Chouinard quickly struck out Mattison and Hartmann on seven pitches.
Nicole deFau started the two-out rally by smoking a ground ball to short stop that Valdez misplayed. Madrid then came through with an infield hit, hustling down the line after bouncing a ball toward Valdez to put runners at first and second.
Back to the top of the order for the Irish, Jenny Kriech stepped in for her third at bat. One of the few Irish hitters who had success against Chouinard in the game (Kriech finished two for two), she quickly fell behind in the count 1-2. Kriech fouled off the fourth pitch, but DePaul catcher Gina Ramacci appeared to reach forward and interfere with the swing.
Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf quickly appealed the play, but the home plate umpire seemed to indicate he did not see the contact. He went to the second base umpire for a consultation and apparently he saw the play and Kriech was awarded first base on catcher’s interference.
Lenti offered a short protest of the play and right after he returned to the DePaul dugout, Ciolli drilled the first pitch from Chouinard into centerfield. Ashley Parker misplayed the ball for the Blue Demons and the ball bounced under her glove and skittered all the way to the centerfield wall. Ciolli’s fourth triple of the season cleared the bases and gave her team the first lead of the game.
Chouinard ended the inning by walking Loman and getting a Myers ground out to third base.
There was no doubt that DePaul hit the ball hard in the final inning, but luckily for the Irish it was right to the Notre Dame defensive players. Sarah Douglas lined out to Madrid at second base for out number one. Dana Kenney, the toughest out in the Blue Demon lineup on the day with a three for three performance, then singled to centerfield. Bouck moved Kenney to second on a bunt, but Ciolli’s spectacular diving catch in leftfield off Martz’ bat ended the game.
The Irish return to action against BIG EAST Conference opponent Rutgers on Friday at noon, looking to lock up the top seed in the conference tournament next week.