April 16, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (27-8) pushed its win streak to 16 games with a thrilling come-from-behind victory 5-4 at Providence (25-12) in game two of a doubleheader. Down to its last out, the Irish saw junior Meagan Ruthrauff and freshman Katie Laing post back-to-back doubles to push both the tying and winning run across the plate. The win pushes Notre Dame’s BIG EAST Conference record to 6-0 and denies Providence its first win in the series (22-0 in favor of the Irish). Senior Steffany Stenglein, coming off a one-hit, 15-strikeout performance in game one of the doubleheader, slammed the door in the seventh inning to pick up her second victory of the day. Junior Heather Booth started the contest and worked 5.1 innings, giving up a four-run inning to Providence in the fourth inning – setting the stage for the Irish comeback. Notre Dame opened up a 3-0 lead in the game, only to see the Friars answer back with a big fourth inning. Stephanie Brown was two for four with an RBI in the game, while Kellie Middleton scored the game-winning run in a one for three performance at the plate. The Irish will be back in action tomorrow, Sunday, April 17, in a conference doubleheader at Connecticut (11 a.m.).
Notre Dame nabbed the go-ahead run early in the top of the first inning. Stephanie Brown led off with a slap hit to third base and Kellie Middleton attempted to mover her over with a sacrifice bunt. Providence third base Michelle Willette threw the ball away, however, moving both runners into scoring position.
Megan Ciolli stepped in next and grounded into a fielder’s choice, as Brown was thrown out at the plate. With runners at first and second (and the two fastest runners on the team in Middleton and Ciolli), Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf immediately called for the double steal. The play worked perfectly, as Providence even cut off the throw to second base but could not get Middleton at home on the play.
Notre Dame missed out on additional runs in the inning when Meagan Ruthrauff struck out and Katie Laing popped up.
The Irish came back in the second inning for a two-run two-out rally to take a three-run lead. After two ground outs, Mallorie Lenn drew an 11-pitch walk to bring up Sara Schoonaert. Schoonaert swung at the first two pitches she was offered, fouling one off then lining a base hit into short right-centerfield. Providence’s Rachel Bartholomew misplayed the ball, as it skipped by her to the wall for a triple. Lenn easily scored on the play and Schoonaert ended up at third, where she would not stay long when Brown drilled a single up the middle to put the Irish ahead 3-0. Middleton flied out to rightfield to end the inning.
Notre Dame threatened to score in both the third and fourth innings, but could not get the clutch hit necessary to extend its lead. Ruthrauff singled and Hartmann walked in the third, but Carrie Wisen flied out to end the inning. In the fourth, Lenn drew a walk and Brown reached on a fielder’s choice, but Middleton and Ciolli both ground out back to the pitcher to end the scoring chance.
Missing out on those scoring opportunities would come back to hurt the Irish in the Providence portion of the fourth inning. Kalena Peterson led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by Elena Romero. Romero’s single came up after Rachel Bartholomew laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt just in front of the plate. Irish catcher Lenn decided to try to get the lead runner at third, but the runner ended up safe on the play to put runners on the corners for Romero’s single.
Providence continued to pile on the damage in the inning when Sara Pittman hit a ground ball back to the pitcher and Booth decided to get the lead runner at third on a force play. Her throw was wide, however, and the runner scored on the play for Providence’s second run of the inning.
After Booth posted a strikeout to get one out away from escaping the inning, she allowed a double to the centerfield wall by Jacki Karsina – who entered the game hitting .211 this season. Karsina crushed the ball over Ciolli’s head in centerfield, driving in two runs and giving the home team its first lead of the game – and first lead of the day.
The Irish spoiled yet another scoring opportunity the fifth inning when Ruthrauff drew a lead off walk. Katie Laing struggled getting a sacrifice bunt down, looking to get Ruthrauff in scoring position with the tying run. Laing eventually flied out to centerfield and Hartmann stepped in looking to bunt again – but she popped up her bunt attempt. Ruthrauff was easily doubled up on the play and Providence retained its one-run lead heading into the home part of the fifth inning.
Booth settled down after the rough fourth inning, but surrendered a lead off hit in the bottom of the sixth to Elena Romero. After Romero was sacrificed to second base, Gumpf pulled Booth out of the game in favor of game one starter Steffany Stenglein. Who immediately ended the threat with a strikeout and ground out.
The top of the Irish lineup was due in the top of the seventh, looking for a lone equalizing run to possibly push the game into extra innings.
After looking at several pitches and fouling off a few to stay alive, Brown grounded out to first base – just missing out on beating the throw by a step.
Middleton kept the Irish hopes alive with a solid single through the left side to put the tying run at first base.
Ciolli continued her struggles on the day, popping up the second pitch she was offered to put the Irish down to their last out.
Ruthrauff answered the Irish prayers, however, drilling the first pitch she was offered into the right-centerfield gap for a double. The speedy Middleton easily scored on the play to tie up the game.
Laing continued the Irish rally next, once again swinging away on the first pitch and launching a double into the left-centerfield gap – scoring Ruthrauff and putting the Irish ahead by a run.
The scoring streak ended when Providence brought in Nicole Bartholomew, who pitched game one against the Irish, to induce a foul out to rightfield by Hartmann.
Stenglein slammed the door in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a hit but striking out two and getting a line out to end the game and pick up her 13th win of the year. Stenglein ended up winning both games of the doubleheader and striking out 18 in both games.