March 6, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (6-7) split a doubleheader with Loyola Marymount (6-5) in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. The Irish held on to win game one 2-1, then fell 5-0 to the Lions, who were playing their first games at home in 2005. Notre Dame will face UC Santa Barbara in one game tomorrow (Tuesday) at 4 p.m.
Notre Dame began the doubleheader with a solid team effort in game one. Behind a workman-like pitching performance from junior Heather Booth (4-2 on the season), Notre Dame jumped ahead in the game 2-0 in the fifth inning. LMU starting pitcher Krystal Kehr had held the Irish to just two hits over the first 4.1 innings, but surrendered a first-pitch home run to Megan Ciolli with one out in the fifth inning to break the scoreless tie. Ciolli’s home run was her team-leading second of the season.
LMU immediately changed pitchers, going to Tracy Cook in relief. Sophomore Stephanie Brown was able to coax a walk from Cook to follow Ciolli’s shot and, after junior Mallorie Lenn (two hits in the first game) struck out looking, junior Meagan Ruthrauff crushed a line drive double into the left-centerfield gap – allowing Brown to score from first base.
The Lions would not be able to touch Booth (7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K) for a run until the bottom of the seventh – but the home team came within inches of actually sending the contest into extra innings. Emily Foltz led off the seventh inning with a single to rightfield and was replaced by pinch runner Kirsten Whitt. Brittany Bassett then followed with a ground ball to ND’s Sara Schoonaert at shortstop, but her throw ended up in the dirt and Ruthrauff was unable to scoop the ball up. The throwing error left runners on first and second with no outs.
Booth came back to get the first out of the inning on a fly ball to rightfield. Cook decided make up for her double allowed to Ruthrauff earlier in the game with her own double, lacing a hit into rightfield just over Kellie Middleton’s head. Whitt rounded third to score easily on the play and, in a bit of bad luck for the Irish, the ball hit the bottom of the LMU Softball Field temporary fence and bounded away from Middleton.
The junior rightfielder stayed with the play, however. She ran down the ball and delivered a perfect throw Irish catcher Carissa Jaquish. Jaquish applied the tag to Bassett and the one-run lead was preserved – but LMU kept the pressure on.
Kayla Meeks drew a walk to put runners on first and second and Lisa Abbott followed with a single to centerfield to load the bases. The game finally came to an end when Margo Pineda grounded out to second base and the Irish temporarily reached the .500 mark (6-6) with a 2-1 victory.
Just when the Irish offense looked to be finding its way (seven hits in game one, including two from the previously slumping Mallorie Lenn), the bats grew quiet in game two. Ciolli led off the game with what appeared to be an infield single (called out at first base on a very questionable decision) and the Irish would threaten just one more time in the game.
Notre Dame starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein, unfortunately for the Irish, fell into a familiar pattern of solid pitching early in the game and allowing home run balls in the final innings. Dominating the Lions for the first portion of the game, Stenglein allowed just one hit and struck out six over the first four innings. When the Irish spoiled a scoring chance in the fifth (runners on first and second with one out), the senior righthander turned around to surrender four runs in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, Stenglein walked Bassett and Cook before getting to two outs with a strikeout of Jessica Grassi. Yet another walk loaded the bases for Abbott, who hit a home run against Stenglein in the two team’s meeting last weekend in Palm Springs (a 7-0 LMU victory). Stenglein grooved the first pitch to Abbott, who crushed a grand slam into leftfield and the game was suddenly over.
The Lions scored four runs on just one hit in the inning.
Yet another mistake by the Irish in the top of the sixth spoiled a possible scoring chance when sophomore Gessica Hufnagle was picked off after earning lead off walk.
LMU tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning when Caylin Hornish drilled a one-out solo home run to centerfield – the seventh home run given up by Stenglein in eight appearances this season.
NOTES: The Irish defense had another new look against LMU on Sunday … freshman Katie Laing made her first two starts at second base and fielded her position perfectly … Laing and Sara Schoonaert combined on a key 4-6-3 double play in sixth inning of game one – preserving a two run lead for the Irish … Carrisa Jaquish started game one for the Irish at catcher, while Gessica Hufnagle got the call in game two … Mallorie Lenn returned to the designated player role after starting the previous two games at catcher … Megan Ciolli continues to be the best player on the field, although she was just one for six on the day (falling to .350 on the season), she hit every offering on the screws and ended up with two line drive outs directly to LMU defensive positions … Meagan Ruthrauff just missed her second home run of the season in the seventh inning of game two – as LMU centerfielder Jessica Grassi made a catch over the fence to keep Notre Dame off the scoreboard.