April 9, 2003
The University of Notre Dame softball team (16-11, 2-0) finally got in two BIG EAST Conference games this season and nabbed its first two league wins with 5-4 and 4-1 victories at Pittsburgh (17-21, 3-5) on Wednesday afternoon. The two Irish victories came in vastly different methods, as game one featured a five-run seventh inning by Notre Dame to rally for the victory. Game two featured a dominating pitching performance by freshman Heather Booth, who surrendered just one hit and an unearned run while striking out seven.
The Notre Dame offense was highlighted by a bases loaded double from Andrea Loman to provide the winning margin in game one. Mallorie Lenn hit a two-run home run in the second game for her second round-tripper of the season.
Notre Dame fell behind in game one due to two home runs and four total runs by the Panthers in the first three innings off Irish starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein. Francesca DiMaria actually led off the bottom of the first with a home run and Casey Pickard followed one batter later with her own solo shot.
Stenglein got out of the first without further incident and worked a calm second inning, but Heather Andrews drove her out of the game with a two-run double in the third. Carrie Wisen entered the game in relief and proceeded to shut down the Panther offense, working 4.1 innings and giving up just one hit.
While Wisen was keeping the Pitt offense quiet, the Irish batters were equally silent dealing with Pittsburgh’s Nikki Gasti. Notre Dame would scratch out just one hit (a single by Lisa Mattison in the second) over the first six innings.
With their backs to the wall, Notre Dame stepped up in the top of the seventh. Andria Bledsoe led off with a single, but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice from Liz Hartmann. Mattison then reached on an error by the Panther second basemen and the Pitt defense continued to struggle when Mallorie Lenn reached on an error by the third basemen, allowing Hartmann to score, Mattison to reach third and Lenn to scamper to second base.
Nicole deFau stepped in next, but she popped up to short stop to put the Irish just one out away from a loss. Lead off hitter Megan Ciolli followed by laying down a great bunt, allowing Mattison to score, Lenn to advance and Ciolli to reach safely.
Freshman Kellie Middleton was then asked to step into the clutch situation and pinch hit for Alexis Madrid. The rookie drew a walk to load the bases for Loman.
For the Irish, Loman at bat with the bases loaded is the perfect situation for the team. Notre Dame’s senior tri-captain came through, crushing a double to centerfield that scored all three runners to put the Irish up 5-4. Meagan Ruthrauff grounded out to end the inning.
Wisen made sure the lead would hold up, getting two ground outs and a strike out to end the game.
The end of game one was a perfect precursor for the Irish in game two. Notre Dame came right out and got two runs in the top of the first off a laser beam double past the third basemen by Ruthrauff.
Pittsburgh would get back one run in the second inning off an Irish error. After a lead off walk, the runner was sacrificed to second base and the batter, Heather Andrews beat out the play at first. Pitt tried to sacrifice both runners over again, but Booth fielded the bunt and threw to Bledsoe covering third to get the lead runner. The runner from second base eventually scored when Jessica Thomas laid down yet another bunt and Lenn overthrew Mattison at first base allowing the run to score. Booth eventually ended the inning with a strike out and ground out.
That would be the last time Pittsburgh would threaten in the contest. Booth would retire the next 11 batters, with Pickard breaking up the no-hitter in the sixth with a single to centerfield.
After the sixth, Booth issued her third walk of the game in the seventh with two outs, but followed by inducing a foul out in right field to end the game.
The Irish return home for two more BIG EAST doubleheaders this weekend, taking on St. John’s (Friday, 4 p.m.) and Seton Hall (Sunday, 11 a.m.).
DOUBLEHEADER NOTES: Andrea Loman was the offensive star for Notre Dame, going three for six in the two games with three RBI, one double and two stolen bases … Heather Booth’s line in game two: 7.0 IP, one hit, one run (unearned), three walks, seven strikeouts, 26 batters faced … Ciolli and Bledsoe were the only other Irish batters with more than one hit on the day … Irish catcher Mallorie Lenn threw out two of three runners attempting to steal during the doubleheader.