May 5, 2002
Celebrating senior day in fine fashion, the University of Notre Dame softball team (38-14, 18-2) posted two impressive victories over Villanova (44-12, 14-5) with identical 9-1 scores at Ivy Field on Sunday afternoon. With the two victories, the Irish claim the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title and the number-one seed in the league championship that begins on Thursday, May 9.
It was the final home game for seniors Kas Hoag, Jenny Kriech and Jarrah Myers and the senior trio were presented two great gifts by their fellow teammates, two impressive eight-run rule victories over the second place team in the conference.
The Irish stumbled in game one of a doubleheader against Rutgers on Friday, giving up five runs in the top of the seventh and dropping their second conference game of the year. That opened the door to a league title for Villanova, who could have claimed the regular-season crown with a sweep of Notre Dame on Sunday. When the Wildcats showed up for game time on Sunday, however, they found the door closed, bolted and deadlocked.
Loman set the tone for the doubleheader in her first at bat. Stepping in with two outs in the bottom of the first, she drilled a 1-1 pitch from Villanova’s Theresa Hornick far over the leftfield wall for a 250-foot home run.
Even though Villanova evened the score on an error in the top of the second, the Irish offense knew they could get to Hornick and wasted little time in the bottom of the inning.
Andria Bledsoe led off with a walk and scored one out later when Liz Hartmann crushed a towering home run over the leftfield foul pole to give her team a 3-1 lead. It was Hartmann’s seventh home run of the season.
With the two-run lead in hand, Notre Dame starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein started to find her groove. She worked a perfect inning in the third to get the Irish batting order back in the box.
After Kriech struck out to begin the third, Megan Ciolli singled to leftfield and advanced to second on a Loman ground out. Myers was then struck by a pitch and Bledsoe followed with a double into the left-centerfield gap. Ciolli scored easily on the play and Myers sprinted around the bases to touch home plate as well.
Villanova switched to pitcher Shannon Williams, but the Irish offense still ended the game in the bottom of the fifth. Ciolli started the rally with an infield single and stole second base. Loman then doubled in her teammate for her second RBI of the game.
Wildcat leftfielder Robin Flier dropped a fly ball from Myers to put runners at the corners. Loman eventually scored on a sacrifice foul out to deep leftfield from Bledsoe and Myers moved up to second.
Needing two more runs to end the game early, Lisa Mattison gave the team a seven-run lead with an RBI single that scored Myers while Mattison moved to second on the throw home. That base running decision paid dividends when Nicole deFau (inserted for Hartmann earlier in the game) lofted a double down the rightfield line to score Mattison and end the game early.
Stenglein earned her 22nd victory of the season in game one, scattering four hits in four innings and striking out three. Carrie Wisen pitched the fifth and gave up just one hit. Game two ended up as a test of Notre Dame’s concentration. After an emotional tribute to the senior class between games one and two, would the team remain focused throughout the second contest?
The Irish answered that question early in game two. The bottom of the second started well, as Jenny Kriech was hit by a pitch. Ciolli, however, lined out hard to the pitcher and Kriech was thrown out on the double play.
Loman made sure the two-out play would not mark a momentum shift. She stepped in and singled to rightfield on an 0-2 pitch and moved to second after Myers bounced a hit up the middle. Bledsoe then nabbed her fourth RBI of the day with a single down the rightfield line to score Loman.
Villanova went with starting pitcher Kristen Haynes in game two and the Irish batting order touched her for four more runs in the third inning. Kriech led off with a double and Ciolli tripled to right field for one run. Loman’s infield single then put two runners on base for Myers, who came through with a laser beam double to the wall in leftfield to clear the bases.
The Wildcats went back to Hornick attempting to get out of the jam, but Bledsoe drilled the third pitch of her at bat into the rightfield gap to score Myers and the fourth run of the inning.
Notre Dame tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning. Madrid drew a four-pitch lead off walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kriech followed with a double down the leftfield line to drive in her teammate. Ciolli’s single up the middle moved Kriech to third and drove Hornick out of the game as the Wildcats brought in Williams. Myers deep sacrifice foul out down the leftfield line allowed Kriech to score the second run of the inning.
The game ended in the sixth when Madrid led off with a single and scored on consecutive Wildcat fielding errors, one of which allowed Ciolli to reach second base. Loman drove her in with a double into right-centerfield to end the game.
Stenglein worked three no-hit innings to begin the game and get her 23rd win of the season. Wisen finished off the Wildcats, giving up one unearned run on three hits.
Next up for the Irish is the 2002 BIG EAST Championship in Salem, Va., set to being on Thursday, May 9.
NOTES: BIG EAST Championship update – Virginia Tech swept Seton Hall on Sunday to assure themselves a spot in the league tournament … as of May 5, Notre Dame, Villanova and Virginia Tech are in the four-team field … Syracuse has an inside track on either the third or fourth seed in the tournament if they can take a game from Pittsburgh in a make-up doubleheader on Monday, May 6 … final BIG EAST Conference statistics for the Irish put five players over .400 in league play (Myers – .462, Loman – .431, Mattison – .426, Bledsoe – .407, and Ciolli – .403) … Myers finished conference play with 24 hits, 23 runs, two doubles, eight home runs, 27 RBI, 11 walks and four stolen bases … Bledsoe finished conference play with 22 RBI, seven doubles, four home runs and just one fielding error at short stop … Loman hit six home runs in conference play while driving in 20 runs and stealing eight bases … Ciolli was a perfect nine for nine in stolen bases in conference play … Wisen was a perfect 5-0 in league play, giving up just three earned runs in 37.1 innings … Stenglein finished 13-2 in the BIG EAST, a 1.13 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 86.2 innings.