March 29, 2006
The University of Notre Dame softball team (14-10) outlasted Bowling Green (17-10) for a 1-0, 11-inning victory on Wednesday evening at Ivy Field in the team’s 2006 home opener. The Irish won the contest on a walk-off RBI double by senior Mallorie Lenn. Lenn’s big hit drove in freshman Alexandra Kotcheff from first base.
While Lenn’s clutch two-out hit will draw much of the attention, senior Heather Booth deserves her share of credit for the Irish victory. Turning in the longest outing of her career, Booth held the Falcons to three hits over 11 innings, striking out five, walking just two and picking up her seventh victory of the season.
The 11-inning victory marks the longest game at Ivy Field since the Irish dropped a 2-1 loss to IUPUI on March 27, 1999. It also was the longest game of the Deanna Gumpf era, surpassing a 10-inning loss at CS Northridge in March of 2003.
The Irish will return to action this weekend and begin BIG EAST Conference play against Connecticut at 12 noon on Saturday.
If one looked up `pitching duel’ in the dictionary, Wednesday evening’s contest would serve as a perfect example to define the term. Booth battled BGSU’s Liz Vrabel back and forth throughout the marathon contest. The two pitchers, working quickly during their respective innings, shot through the first seven innings of the contest in just over one hour.
Booth worked through the Falcon lineup twice while surrendering just one hit, a bloop single to designated player Wendy Sheehan in the fifth inning. Over the first seven innings, Vrabel was even better than the Irish senior captain. She held the Irish without a hit until the bottom of the seventh, when things started to get interesting.
Junior Stephanie Brown (who finished the game two for four) led off the inning with a great at bat, fighting off several pitches until she finally singled to centerfield. Kotcheff followed with a slap single to rightfield to put runners at first and second with no outs. Lenn stepped in next and put down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving the runners to second and third with just one out.
Bowling Green decided to intentionally walk senior Meagan Ruthrauff to load the bases and provide the defense a force out at every plate. The move paid off, as freshman Linda Kohan bounced into a fielder’s choice at third (with Brown forced out at the plate) and sophomore Katie Laing grounding into her own fielder’s choice (with Ruthrauff forced out unassisted at third).
The Irish would threaten again in the bottom of the ninth inning but a baserunning mistake cost the home team the winning run. Brown led off the inning with a double down the leftfield line. Kotcheff was due next and grounded a ball sharply to first base. BGSU’s 1B Lindsay Heimrich decided to throw to third base in an attempt to cut down Brown. Her throw to third was wide, however, and Brown jumped up and headed home with the apparent winning run.
After a few awkward seconds at third base, Bowling Green decided to appeal the play. Brown was called out, as her attempted slide to third base came up short and she failed to touch third base before advancing to home plate. Even with Kotcheff at second after the play, Notre Dame would not score in the inning as Lenn flied out, Ruthrauff was intentionally walked again and Kohan lined out to first base.
While Booth was keeping Bowling Green off the base paths, the Irish finally decided to score the winning run in the 11th inning. Once again, however, the situation would prove unusual.
Freshman Stephanie Mola, starting her first game in rightfield for the Irish, led off the 11th and reached on a fielding error at third base. Brown followed with a strikeout and Mola was called out stealing on the play on a very close call at second base. It seemed that the Irish had suddenly let a scoring opportunity slip away.
Kotcheff kept the inning alive with a single to leftfield and Lenn stood up to post her big hit. She tomahawked a double off the rightfield fence and Kotcheff motored all the way around the bases to score the winning run.
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame debuted another new lineup on Wednesday … after shifting Meagan Ruthrauff to third base against Western Michigan on Sunday, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf moved Stephanie Brown to leftfield and gave Stephanie Mola her first start in the outfield in right … at this point, the moves have paid off … Ruthrauff has passed every defensive test thrown at her for third base, Brown made a great running catch in leftfield in today’s contest and Mola has been consistent at putting the ball in play in the ninth spot of Notre Dame’s batting order … the Ivy Field press box lost power during the game’s extra innings and live audio coverage was lost due to the outage … power was eventually restored just before the Irish claimed a victory in the 11th inning.