Feb. 23, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team (4-5) lost its second-consecutive hard-fought 3-2 to #8 Arizona State (12-3) in the first game of bracket competition at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., on Saturday evening. The 19th-ranked Irish outplayed the Sun Devils for six innings, giving up just two big hits to ASU’s Kara Brun – a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth and a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh.
Notre Dame’s two runs came in the top of the third inning. After threatening to score in the top of the first, the Irish offense finally put some runs on the board with a two-run single from freshman Liz Hartmann. Jenny Kriech had singled to start the inning and was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Lisa Mattison was intentionally walked to load the bases before Hartmann’s big hit.
Irish starting pitcher Carrie Wisen was on cruise control until the sixth inning, when Brun launched the first pitch of the inning deep over the leftfield fence. After giving up a single to the next batter, Wisen was pulled in favor of Steffany Stenglein. Stenglein came through, eventually working her way out of the jam in the sixth with a strikeout and two flyouts.
The bottom of the seventh started fine for Stenglein and the Irish, as she got a ground out and pop up to get to two outs. Phlean Wright followed by bouncing a single up the middle that Notre Dame’s Alexis Madrid was able to smother, but could not make the throw to first in time. Brun stepped in and liked the fourth pitch she saw, sending the 2-1 delivery out of the park to cap her team’s improbable comeback.
It ended up as a tough day for the Irish. Arizona State’s late-inning heroics followed a hard-fought 2-1 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M. The Aggies have proven unbeatable in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, as they are currently 4-0 and will play for the tournament “gold” bracket title on Sunday.
Notre Dame will have to turn around and face Oklahoma on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. in the consolation round of the “silver” bracket. A win over the Sooners would put the Irish in the consolation championship game at noon.