Feb. 13, 2004
It wasn’t the opening game the Notre Dame softball team was hoping to play, at least until the bottom of the seventh inning. The Irish overcame three errors, which delivered Hawaii five unearned runs, to come from behind and defeat the Rainbow Wahine 8-7 in day one action of the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday afternoon.
Sophomore Kellie Middleton delivered the big hit for Notre Dame, drilling the first pitch she was offered in the bottom of the seventh for a two-run home run to provide the winning margin. Middleton’s big hit (her first of the season) capped a five-run rally by the Irish in the seventh – after a frustrating top of the inning saw Hawaii tack on two insurance runs.
“This team has a lot of heart,” head coach Deanna Gumpf said after the game.
“They never gave up and continued to fight throughout the game. It was a win we needed and the team found a way to make it happen.”
The day will not get any easier for the Irish, who turned around to face #2 California in its second game of the day (starting at 2:50 p.m. local time).
Middleton’s big hit was preceeded by a single by sophomore Sara Schoonaert (who was two for three in the game), a single by Megan Ciolli, an RBI ground out by sophomore Stephanie Brown, a strikeout by Mallorie Lenn and an RBI double by Liz Hartmann (three hits in the game).
The first inning didn’t start well for the Irish, seeing their first action of the season on infield dirt. Tracie Uchima smacked a ground ball off pitcher Heather Booth’s glove in the circle that Sara Schoonaert bobbled and was unable to make a play for an error. Noelle Izumi then singled to Schoonaert at short, beating out a slow ground ball. With runners on first and second with no outs, Booth came back to strikeout April Crowell but Tyleen Tausaga then bounced a hit off the glove of Hartmann at third for another Irish defensive error that allowed Uchima to score. Stacey Ritter then drilled a single to centerfield to drive in Izumi. Denise Dahlberg followed with a sacrifice bunt which drove in Tausaga and suddenly the Irish were down 3-0.
Booth struck out Ashley Ruff to end a rough first inning for the Irish defense.
Notre Dame would recover its composure throughout the game, however, as Hawaii repeatedly tested the infield defense. Among the better plays in the infield during the middle innings were a solid pick up and throw to first from Hartmann on a sacrifice bunt and a great diving stab, turn and throw by Ruthrauff on another bunt attempt in the third.
Notre Dame was able to scratch through for a run in the bottom of the third. Schoonaert led off with a single in her first at bat of the season. Ciolli then moved her into second with a perfect sacrifice bunt to third base. Brown was due next and the rookie picked up her first career hit with a single through the middle. Hawaii’s Jackson picked up the ball in centerfield and threw the ball far over the cutoff man, allowing Schoonaert to score on the throwing error. Coogan recovered by striking out Lenn and getting Ruthrauff to pop up and escape the inning without further damage.
The Irish would complete their first rally and tie up the game in the fourth inning, however. Hartmann led off with a single through the left side and was replaced by pinch runner Nicole Wicks. After Middleton moved Wicks into scoring position at second with a sacrifice bunt, Nicole deFau stroked a triple down the rightfield line which allowed Wicks to easily score on the play. With deFau at third, Hawaii catcher Denise Dahlberg committed a passed ball and the score was suddenly tied 3-3.
The tie lasted one inning when Dahlberg made up for her passed ball by crushing a pitch over the leftfield fence for a home run to put Hawaii ahead 4-3. The Rainbow Wahine then tacked on an insurance run when Booth walked Jackson with two outs and the number nine hitter, Justina Kahaku drilled a triple over Middleton’s head in rightfield to put her team up two runs at 5-3. Carrie Wisen entered in relief of Booth and forced a pop up on her first pitch to end the inning.
Notre Dame responded to put together a scoring chance in the bottom of the inning but were done in by a bit of bad luck. Ruthrauff drew a walk to lead off and moved to second when Hartmann singled to centerfield. After Middleton popped up to centerfield, deFau posted her second hit of the game with a single to leftfield. Freshman Cariss Jaquish then stepped in and drilled a liner to third base, which allowed Hawaii to force out Ruthrauff at home and get Jaquish by a step at first for a double play.
Hawaii continued to put the pressure on the Irish and tacked on an additional two unearned insurance runs in the top of the seventh before Notre Dame’s comeback. The big error came when Brown tried a backhanded throw to first base that sailed over Ruthrauff’s head, allowing the runner to reach second and eventually score on a single.
GAME NOTES: Freshman Stephanie Brown posted her first career hit and RBI of her career at Notre Dame in the victory against Hawaii … Notre Dame was paced on offense by three solid efforts, Hartmann (three for four with an RBI double), deFau (two for three, RBI) and Schoonaert (two for three, two runs scored) … Booth’s final line ended up at 5.2 IP, seven hits, five runs (just two earned), four strikeouts … Wisen earned the win with 1.1 IP, three hits and two unearned runs … eight of Notre Dame’s nine hitter posted at least one hit in the game.