May 9, 2002
It wasn’t the start to the 2002 BIG EAST Championship that the Irish were looking for. After an early exit last year’s tournament in Villanova, Pa., the University of Notre Dame softball team (38-15) got off to an equally ugly start in 2002 with an 8-3 loss to fourth-seeded Virginia Tech (41-17) in the first round on Thursday.
In last season’s first-round loss, it was Notre Dame’s offense that came up short – getting shut out against Seton Hall for the first time in the 2001 campaign. On Thursday, it was the Irish pitching staff that struggled. The Hokies, one of the better power hitting teams in the conference, feasted on the Irish pitching by hitting four home runs and putting eight runs on the board.
Notre Dame’s offense kept pace, equaling the Virginia Tech hit output (11-11), but the Irish were unable to come up with the big hit they needed to get back in the game.
The signs were apparent early that Irish pitcher Steffany Stenglein didn’t have her best stuff to start the game. She was saved by a spectacular catch in centerfield by Jenny Kriech that saved a double in the second inning, but Kathleen Jones stepped in for the next at bat and hit a home run just over the fence in leftfield.
Stenglein left the game in the third inning after giving up back to back home runs by Tiffany Hurt and Carmen Farmer. Wisen entered in relief and escaped the jam with three consecutive strikeouts.
Wisen’s effectiveness was up and down, as she ended up surrendering seven hits, four runs and struck out four over the last four innings of the game.
All of Notre Dame’s runs came in the fifth inning. Alexis Madrid led off with a single and moved to third on a Megan Ciolli double. Andrea Loman moved the runners up one base and grabbed an RBI with a ground out to second base. Ciolli scored on a Myers singled up the middle to drive in the second run and Lisa Mattison sent her home with an RBI single to round out the Irish scoring. A close play at third on Mattison’s single (on which Andria Bledsoe appeared to beat the throw but was called out) turned the tide of the game. Instead of having runners at second and third with two outs and Liz Hartmann at the plate, the inning ended. Notre Dame had cut the Hokie lead to 6-3 at that point, but Virginia Tech added two more insurance runs in the sixth and seventh to seal the win.
Notre Dame is in the loser’s bracket of the tournament and will face Syracuse, who lost to Villanova 3-2 in eight innings on Thursday, in the first elimination game of the tournament at 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner of the Irish – Orangewomen contest heads home, while the winner will take on the loser of the Villanova-Virginia Tech contest (which is at 1 p.m. tomorrow) at 3 p.m.