April 21, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (32-9) returned to its home field for the first time in nine games on Thursday evening and walked away with a doubleheader sweep of Akron (20-21), winning game one 1-0 and game two 3-2. Timely hitting and great pitching were the stories of the game for the Irish, who now look forward to a key BIG EAST Conference weekend with St. John’s (Friday) and Seton Hall (Sunday) coming to campus.
Looking to get a bit of rest for the weekend, Irish staff ace senior Steffany Stenglein did not start game one, giving way to a brilliant pitching performance by junior Heather Booth. Booth worked a complete-game one-hit shutout in game one, striking out 11 and walking two. She improved her season record to 15-5 with the win.
The Irish offense, on the other hand, had trouble getting anything going against Akron’s Tina McCauley. She scattered four hits, striking out three, walking one and allowing a single earned run.
That single run was delivered on a clutch two-out hit by senior Megan Ciolli in the third inning. With one out, sophomore Stephanie Brown posted an infield hit and moved to second base on a ground out. Ciolli then came through by lacing a hit into leftfield, driving in Brown with the lone run of the ballgame.
Game two started off well for the Irish, as Brown led off the bottom of the second by crushing the first pitch she was offered by Sara Tervo over the centerfield wall for her second home run of the season.
Brown’s towering shot was followed by an infield hit by junior Kellie Middleton, who stole second base, moved to third on a throwing error and scored on an RBI single by junior Meagan Ruthrauff.
Looking to get a little pitching action for Stenglein to keep her sharp before this weekend’s conference games, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf had the senior righthander work the second, third and fourth innings after Booth started game two with a perfect one-two-three first inning.
Stenglein mowed through the Zip lineup, striking out five batters in three innings of work.
Now looking to get both Stenglein and Booth a bit of rest, Gumpf turned to Kenya Fuemmeler in the fifth inning. The sophomore, making just her fourth appearance of the season, experienced a rough inning due to some Irish defensive miscues but wound end up earning her first career victory.
A single, fielding error by the Irish and walk loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth. Fuemmeler came back with a strikeout and fielder’s choice to get one out away from escaping the inning, but missed out on a called strike three call from the home plate umpire on a big 2-2 pitch.
Her eventual 3-2 offering to Akron’s Sara Zilles ended up in leftfield for an RBI single and the tying run scored when Middleton bobbled the ball on defense.
Undeterred, the Irish put together a two-out rally to get the lead back. Ciolli drew a walk, followed by Ruthrauff drawing an identical free pass to put two runners on for freshman Katie Laing. After stranding five runners during the early part of game one and two, Laing delivered by lifting a double into leftfield – scoring Ciolli with the game winning run.
Booth reentered the game and pitched two solid innings to pick up her third save of the year. Fuemmler, the pitcher of record when the Irish took the lead in the fifth, ended up earning her first career win.
Notre Dame will be back in action tomorrow, Friday, April 22, at 4 p.m. against St. John’s.
GAME NOTES: With two steals in the two games on Thursday, senior Megan Ciolli has matched the single-season record for stolen bases, also held by Katie Marten (1996) … Ciolli will hopefully get a chance at the single-season record this weekend.