March 1, 2004
Sophomores Meagan Ruthrauff and Heather Booth both earned weekly awards from the BIG EAST Conference on Monday, March 1, after leading the University of Notre Dame softball team to a 5-1 record over the weekend and the NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) Leadoff Classic Sliver Bracket Championship.
Ruthrauff was named the conference player of the week after blasting three home runs during the weekend tournament, including two game-winners, while hitting .368 with nine RBI. Her two-run homer vs. Northwestern State to begin the tournament proved to be the difference in that contest, while her solo shot in the sixth inning vs. Georgia Tech provided the winning margin in Notre Dame’s 2-1 victory.
Ruthrauff also had a monster game against Princeton in Notre Dame’s 10-1, six-inning victory in the first game of bracket play. She went two for three at the plate with five RBI, including a three-run home run to break the game open in te fifth inning.
Booth had a spectacular weekend in the pitching circle for Notre Dame, winning all three starts during the NFCA Leadoff Classic with complete-game performances. She had seven strike outs and allowed just six hits in the opener vs. Northwestern State, then turned in a gutsy performance vs. #24/24 CS Fullerton. She pitched all eight innings of the game, allowing seven hits and one earned run with a career-best 11 strikeouts. The Irish won the game 5-4 on a passed ball in the top of the eighth.
Booth turned around the next day to completely shut down a potent #14/14 Nebraska line up to earn her second-straight victory over a ranked opponent. The Cornhuskers managed just four hits off Booth, who struck out five and walked just two batters for the complete-game shut out.
For the weekend, Booth pitched 22.0 innings, scattering 17 hits with 23 strikeouts and just two earned runs for a 0.64 ERA.
The Irish matched the 1995 and 2000 teams for the second-best start to the season, as Notre Dame is currently 10-4 … the 2001 team began the season with a 13-1 record over its first 14 games.
Notre Dame returns to action on March 6, vs. Massachusetts in the Florida Atlantic/Worth Invitational … the Irish will face UMass, Florida International, North Carolina and Florida Atlantic during the tournament … Notre Dame will remain in Florida for Spring Break, eventually moving up to Florida State to face the Seminoles and participate in the Seminole Classic … the Irish will take on Michigan, Troy State, Georgia State and Maryland in the first two days of the tournament – and could face any combination of other participating teams on Sunday, March 14.
The victories over #24/24 CS Fullerton and #14/14 Nebraska give the Irish three wins over ranked opponents this season … Notre Dame knocked off #8/8 Nebraska 6-4 on Feb. 14 at the UNLV Classic … those three wins in the first 14 games of the season are the second-best total in school history, behind the four by the 2001 team (#4 Washington, #18 South Carolina, #24 CS Northridge twice) and tied with the 1995 (#14 Texas A&M, #18 Illinois-Chicago, #21 Oklahoma State) and 1994 (#10 Michigan, #25 Minnesota, #5 CS Fullerton) squads.
Notre Dame’s 5-1 record and Silver Bracket Championship is easily the best performance the Irish have produced in six visits to the NFCA Leadoff Classic (1996 – 3-3, 1997 – 1-4, 1998 – 3-3, 2002 – 1-4, 2003 1-2).
Nicole Wicks stepped in for Kellie Middleton, out indefinitely with an injury, to hit .400 over the weekend with six hits in 15 at bats, one double, two home runs and two RBI … she also had three outfield assists during the weekend.
Freshman Stephanie Brown had a solid tournament at the plate, hitting .368 with seven hits, two home runs and five runs scored.
Senior Nicole deFau also enjoyed her trip to the NFCA Leadoff Classic, hitting .375 over the weekend with six hits and a double … she also clinched the victory for Notre Dame over Georgia Tech in the Silver Bracket Championship game, throwing out the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Irish pitching staff came together well during the weekend, compiling a staff ERA of 1.83 … Steffany Stenglein picked up two wins over the weekend, striking out 15 in 18.0 IP … Stenglein allowed nine runs, but seven of those runs came in the 7-1 loss to #6/6 Georgia, the only set back of the weekend for Notre Dame … in Stenglein’s other two starts, she allowed just two runs … Carrie Wisen was perfect in her only relief appearance, facing the minimum of six batters in two innings vs. Princeton.