Feb. 14, 2004
In its first three games of the season, the Notre Dame softball team (2-1) has exploded for nine runs, none more important than the four the Irish posted on Saturday night to upset #8/9 Nebraska (2-2) 6-4 during play at the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, Nev.
Notre Dame’s rally from a 3-0, then 4-2 deficit in the game comes on the heels of the team’s five-run rally to down Hawaii 8-7 on Friday afternoon. Saturday’s big hits came in the form of three two-run home runs, two off the bat of junior Liz Hartmann. Hartmann hit one of her two runs shots in the fifth inning to cut the Nebraska lead down to 3-2, but the Cornhuskers came back to tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
With one out in the seventh inning, freshman Stephanie Brown hit her first career home run, a two-run shot down the leftfield line that cleared the fence directly over the foul pole. Two batter’s later, Hartmann followed up with her second home run to provide the winning margin.
The win gives the Irish a victory to hang their hat on for the 2004 season.
“Like I said after the Hawaii game, this team has a lot of character,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said.
“This group has a little something special that allows them not to give up – no matter what the odds.”
Gumpf was especially pleased after the game that her team not only rallied twice, but overcame some frustrating plays during the contest. There were several close calls during the game – and most did not go Notre Dame’s way.
The win gives Gumpf her second in four tries against her alma mater (Gumpf is a ’92 graduate of Nebraska) and both wins came off big home runs from Hartmann. In 2002 in Lincoln, Neb., Hartmann hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh in an eventual 3-2 Irish victory.
“I hit an outside pitch for the first one,” Hartmann said after the game about her two home runs.
“In the seventh, the first pitch I saw was on the inside corner. I didn’t swing at it, but it is a pitch I can usually hit well. For some reason, they came back and threw the same pitch again and I was able to get a good swing on it.”
Notre Dame continues the UNLV Classic against the host team, UNLV, on Saturday evening approximately 30 minutes after their big win over the Cornhuskers..
Here is a complete recap of the thriller in Las Vegas:
A defensive miscue put Notre Dame in trouble early when freshman Stephanie Brown dropped a line drive at second base with a runner on first. Nebraska’s Anne Steffan was attempting to move Nicole Timboli over with a slap bunt, but popped the offering directly at Brown. Trimboli was far off first base and could have been thrown out for a double play, but Brown seemed to lose the ball in the sun and it fell to the dirt. Both runners ended up safe on the play.
Booth came back to battle out of the jam, however. Sheena Lawrick fouled out to Ruthrauff at first base, followed by Booth striking out Peaches James and getting Trisha Tannahill to pop a routine fly to rightfield.
The Irish, on the other hand, ran themselves out of a scoring opportunity in the top of the second inning. Hot-hitting Nicole deFau launched a two-out double deep into the left-centerfield gap. Designated player Carissa Jaquish followed by sneaking an infield hit past Nebraska’s Devin Porter at shortstop. DeFau initially stopped on the play, then decided to run. Tannahill quickly retrieved the ball in leftfield, however, and easily gunned the Irish senior down at third to end the inning.
Notre Dame came back to threaten again in the top of the third when Sara Schoonaert drilled an 0-2 pitch down the leftfield line for her first double of the season. Ciolli then laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt, but Nebraska’s Lawrick misplayed the ball down the first base line. Ciolli ended up safe on the play and Notre Dame had runners at the corners with no outs. Nebraska starting pitcher Ashley DeBuhr took a first step toward getting out of the jam by getting Brown to pop out to the catcher.
In a town where you need some luck to be successful, Notre Dame then ended up as an unlucky team due to a questionable call from the umpiring crew. Mallorie Lenn drilled a line drive to rightfield that NU’s Liz Lawhorn caught on her knees. Schoonaert tagged and scored from third base. Lawhorn hit the cut man, who threw to third in an attempt to get Ciolli who was trying to advance from first. It was a bang-bang play at third, but Ciolli was called out. Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle lept out of her dugout to appeal that Schoonaert left early from third base. While Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf was discussing the play at third, the umpire also called Schoonaert out for leaving early. Notre Dame ended up with no runs on the play and the inning ended.
Booth made sure that Nebraska would not get any momentum from their gift in the top of the inning. She sat down Trimboli, Steffan and Lawrick in order to get the Irish offense back into the batter’s box.
Hartmann would get a one-out single in the top of the fourth, but yet another unlucky play snuffed out the Irish inning before it could really get started. Middleton popped a line drive right to first base and Lawrick turned around to tag out pinch runner Nicole Wicks for the unassisted double play.
Yet again, luck refused to be a lady for Notre Dame in the bottom of the fourth inning. With one out, Tannahill reached on a fielding error by Schoonaert at shortstop. The Schoonaert error was sandwiched by two spectacular defensive plays at third base by Hartmann. She smothered two hot shots right to her and made solid throws to first to get the Irish one out of escaping the inning. With Tannahill on second base, however, Notre Dame’s bad luck decided to rear its ugly head again. Pinch hitter Jamie Waldecker hit a ball through the left side, which Hartmann nearly made another great play on. It ricocheted off the tip of her glove for a hit and Tannahill scored on the play to give Nebraska the first lead of the game.
Jessica Yoachim reentered to run for Waldecker and stole second base to get in scoring position. Lawhorn then came through with a solid single to leftfield which deFau was in perfect position to field and throw home. The throw was one of the best of the tournament and beat Yoachim to the plate by three steps. Irish catcher Mallorie Lenn seemed to be in perfect position and had the plate blocked. The ball never hit the ground, but the runner was called safe in yet another questionable umpiring decision.
The inning finally ended with two unearned runs by Nebraska and Notre Dame’s bad luck continuing its frustrating pattern.
Schoonaert would get her second hit of the game in the top of the fifth with two outs, but any Irish scoring opportunity ended when Ciolli bounced into a fielder’s choice at second base.
Booth began to lose her control in the bottom of the fifth inning. After striking out the first batter she faced, she issued three consecutive walks to load the bases. Gumpf went to the bullpen to call on reliever Carrie Wisen, hoping her change up might induce some groundballs which would allow them to get out of the inning unscathed.
Nebraska catcher Brittney Yolo stepped up, however and drilled a single to centerfield to drive in Lawrick with Nebraska’s third run. The Notre Dame defense, however, decided to step up and end any further damage. Ciolli fielded the ball in centerfield and made a great throw home, getting Peaches James at the plate for the second out of the inning. Tannahill ended up at third on the play and one pitch later was picked off when Schoonaert snuck in behind her and Lenn made a great throw to end the inning.
Frustrated by its inability to get over the hump against the Cornhuskers, junior third base Hartmann decided to take matters into her own hands. After Lenn stroked a double and pinch runner Kenya Fuemmeler made it to third on a wild pitch, another Irish mental error almost cost them scoring opportunities in the inning. Ruthrauff hit a hard ground ball to third which Yoachim fielded and tagged Fuemmeler out on, as the freshman wandered too far off third base.
Hartmann made sure that Nebraska would not escape another inning without allowing some runs, as she crushed a 2-1 offering deep over the centerfield fence to cut Nebraska’s lead down to 3-2. Middleton kept the pressure on getting an infield hit and reaching second on a throwing error.
Pressure continued to build when deFau drew a four-pitch walk to put runners at first and second with two outs. Wisen stepped in to bat for herself in Jaquish’s designated player spot, but DeBuhr responded by striking her out on four pitches.
Nebraska stirred up more trouble in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on two walks and a fielder’s choice. Steffan then bounced a ball to second , with the only play Brown having was a toss to first. The play gave Nebraska one insurance run and the inning ended with a ground out to second base and a Cornhusker 4-2 lead.
Once again, just like its five-run seventh inning against Hawaii on Friday afternoon, Notre Dame came back with a dramatic rally. Down to the last two outs after Schoonaert led off with a single (her third hit of the game), freshman Stephanie Brown delivered her first career home run at a very opportune time, stroking a 1-0 pitch over the foul pole to tie up the game 4-4.
Lenn fouled out to first base to get Nebraska one out away from getting out of the inning, but Ruthrauff drew a walk to bring up Hartmann. The Irish team leader delivered again, drilling a towering home run off the Eller Media Stadium scoreboard to put the Irish ahead for the first time in the game.
Wisen retired Nebraska in order to end the game and pick up her second victory of the season.
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame’s inexperienced infield defense was a concern entering the weekend and it has proved to be a worthy concern in the first three games … entering Saturday’s night cap against UNLV, the Irish have allowed eight unearned runs in three games this season, coming from seven defensive errors … Hartmann’s home run in the sixth inning is the second for the Irish junior after she hit the game-wining three-run homer at Nebraska back in 2002 … Hartmann’s two home runs give six in the tournament and fourth and fifth RBI of the weekend so far .. the two blasts also make her the second Notre Dame softball player to hit two home runs in a game (the school record) three times in her career … Hartmann also has hit home runs vs. Oakland (4-30-02) and Louisiana-Lafayette (2-28-03) … final pitching lines – Heather Booth: 4.1 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO, Carrie Wisen (W, 2-0), 2.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, Ashley DeBuhr (L, 0-1), 7.0 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 SO.