April 5, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (21-8), which arrived back in town at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday after remaining on the east coast to make up a conference doubleheader on Monday, fought off any flight fatigue with a doubleheader sweep of Eastern Michigan (6-12) at Ivy Field on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon. The Irish won game one 1-0 behind a brilliant pitching performance, then rallied for a 7-5 victory in game two.
Notre Dame pushes is season-high win streak to 10 games with the two victories and the Irish have now won 16 of their last 17 games. The team also pushed its Ivy Field record to 5-0 in 2005.
Pitching dominated the first game of the doubleheader, as senior righthander Steffany Stenglein allowed just two hits – one in the first inning and one in the seventh while striking out a season-high 12.
Stenglein mowed through the Eagle lineup striking out six in a row in the second and third inning and only found herself in trouble once during the game. EMU’s Lauren Clark led off the top of the seventh with a triple, but was stranded at third base with the tying run when Stenglein came back to get a pop up, strike out and ground out to end the game.
While EMU struggled against Stenglein, Notre Dame did not fare much better against the Eagle’s Michelle Lloyd. She struck out seven Irish batters in six innings of work and allowed just two hits.
One of those hits was a big one, however, as junior Meagan Ruthrauff drilled an RBI double in the bottom of the first to drive in the only run of game one. Senior Megan Ciolli, who reached on an error just a few pitches before, scored on the play.
The single run was all that Stenglein would need, as she picked up her third shutout and sixth complete game of the season.
Game two started out much different than the first, with the teams combining for eight runs in the first three innings. EMU jumped on Irish starting pitcher Heather Booth, named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday, in the first inning by plating two unearned runs.
Lauren Clark led off with a single through the right side and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
Liz Flack was due next for EMU and she grounded back to Booth in the circle, who caught Clark between second and third in a heads up play to get the lead runner on a fielder’s choice. Irish third base Liz Hartmann dropped the throw, however, and Booth was suddenly in big trouble with runners on second and third with one out.
After a line out to rightfield that did not allow the runners to advance, EMU starting pitcher Nikki Denman drew a walk to load the bases and Katie Grens made the Irish pay for the defensive mistake with an RBI single through the right side. Booth escaped further damage in the inning with a strike out.
Surrendering two runs in the top of the first did not cause the Irish to flinch, however. Notre Dame answered with its own run in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally. Ciolli doubled to leftfield to get in scoring position and Ruthrauff drove her in with a looping single to leftfield.
Booth worked a quick inning in the second to get the Irish bats back to action and the team responded. Hartmann doubled to lead off the second and pinch runner Sarah Smith scored when Mallorie Lenn’s sacrifice bunt attempt was thrown wide down the rightfield line.
After pinch runner Nicole Wicks was thrown out at third base attempting to steal on a controversial call, Gessica Hufnagle drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single up the middle by Sara Schoonaert.
Eastern Michigan answered with a run in the top of the third when Lindsay Schmid doubled into the right-centefield gap, allowing Liz Flack to score on the play. Notre Dame would seize the momentum back, however, with two more runs in the bottom of the third. Ciolli and Ruthrauff drew walks to lead off the inning and were sacrificed to second and third by Katie Laing. Hartmann then came through with a single down the leftfield line – driving in both runs.
Notre Dame tacked on what appeared to be insurance runs in the sixth inning on a two-RBI single with two outs by junior Kellie Middleton, but they proved to be crucial as EMU staged a mini-rally in the top of the seventh.
Irish head coach pulled Booth from the game after three innings, deciding to change the momentum by going back to Stenglein. Stenglein settled back into her groove in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, striking out four and allowing two hits. She did surrender two runs in the seventh on a solo home run by Clark and a two-base error – but ended the game with a strike out to pick up her ninth victory of the year.
Notre Dame will return to action on Thursday at Ivy Field, playing host to Ball State for a single game at 5 p.m.