Feb. 15, 2003
The Notre Dame softball team ended up 1-1 on its first day of competition of the 2003 season. The Irish lost to host South Florida 5-4 at the USF/Wilson Tournament in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, but bounced back to down Kent State 5-1 in the nightcap.
The 17th-ranked Notre Dame softball team knew it would have to be on the top of its game in the first contest of the year. The Irish faced South Florida, hosting its second tournament and 12th game of the year, in sunny conditions on Saturday afternoon.
Those sunny conditions are a welcome sight for Notre Dame after practicing indoors for the last three weeks. But the rusty-ness started to show in game one against South Florida in the fifth inning.
Notre Dame was cruising along with a three-run lead. Alexis Madrid provided an RBI ground out in the third inning, Mallorie Lenn delivered an RBI single in the fourth and Andrea Loman posted an RBI double in the fifth to put the Irish ahead.
South Florida came back when Renee Oursler reached on an infield bunt. Notre Dame starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein lost a bit of her control and walked the next two batters. USF’s Kattrina Dowd followed up by lifting a fly ball to centerfield, destined to be a sacrifice fly.
Irish centerfielder Megan Ciolli dropped the ball for an error, however, and one run scored on the play. Stephanie Roberts then came through with an RBI ground out for South Florida to tie up the ball game. Suddenly a three-run lead was down to just one. Carmela Liwag added an RBI single that drove Stenglein out of the game and tied up the score at 3-3.
Sophomore Carrie Wisen came in to provide relief for Notre Dame and was a bit wild at first, uncorking a wild pitch with a runner on third to give the home team their first lead.
After Wisen got a fly out to finally end the inning, Notre Dame looked to get its run back but Nicole deFau, Meagan Ruthrauff and Ciolli were retired in order to get the hot USF bats back in the box.
Renee Oursler led off with a strange double down the left field line. Notre Dame’s Andria Bledsoe made a great diving attempt for the ball behind third base, but it dropped out of her glove and rolled to the fence. That hit drove Wisen out of the game as Irish head coach turned to rookie Heather Booth. USF laid down a sacrifice bunt to get the runner to third, but Booth came back to strike out the next batter and get one out away from escaping. The rookie then threw a bad wild pitch, but Lenn quickly got to the ball and threw to Booth, who tagged out Oursler at the plate to end the inning.
Needing a run to tie up the game, the heart of Notre Dame’s order came through. Madrid singled up the middle and USF reliever Corin Tassio was able to get Bledsoe and Loman. Number five hitter Lisa Mattison kept hope alive with a scorching single down the left field line to put Madrid in scoring position and Lenn followed with her second RBI of the game (and her career) to tie up the contest. Liz Hartmann flied out to deep left field to end the inning.
South Florida was undaunted, however. Shelly Riker led off with an infield single and moved to second when Booth misplayed a sacrifice bunt attempt. With runners on first and second, Booth came back to strike out Roberts but Liwag blooped a single over second base to plate the winning run for South Florida.
Tassio picked up her fifth victory of the season (5-1), while Booth suffered her first career loss (0-1).
After taking a break to get a bite to eat, Notre Dame returned to the USF Softball Field to face Kent State at 7 p.m. (originally scheduled to start at 6 p.m.).
With Booth on the mound determined to put her late-inning struggles behind her from the first game, Notre Dame got on the board early against the Golden Flashes.
Loman led off the top of the second with a deep home run to centerfield. Mattison then drilled a double into the gap in left field and was replaced by pinch-runner Sara Schoonaert. After Lenn struck out, Schoonaert scampered around third to score on a Ruthrauff single up the middle.
Kent State would come back to get a run in the bottom of the second, but Booth escaped a bases loaded situation by inducing a ground out back to her and a strikeout.
Notre Dame’s bats came calling again in the fourth when Bledsoe led off with a single to right field. After Loman walked on four pitches and Mattison moved the runners over with a ground out (followed by a Lenn strikeout) Ruthrauff delivered again with a bouncing single through the left side, allowing both Bledsoe and Loman to score.
The Irish added an insurance run in the fifth to get to the final score of 5-1. Booth grabbed the victory, going five innings with four hits, one walk and three strikeouts. Wisen pitched two innings of relief, giving up two hits and striking out one.
Notre Dame is back in action on Sunday at 10 a.m. against Jacksonville and 12 p.m. against Hofstra.
Irish notes: It was a fine day for the Irish freshman class … Sara Schoonaert scored her first career run while pinch running in the first game … Kellie Middleton threw out a runner attempting to score from third on a sacrifice fly against Kent State – it was Middleton’s first career defensive chance … Meagan Ruthrauff had a great first two rookie games, going two for five with three RBI … Mallorie Lenn ended up two for six with two RBI … Heather Booth battled through her first tests, working 6.1 innings on the day and striking out five … junior Chantal DeAlcuaz caught the last two innings of the Kent State victory and picked a runner off third to end the sixth … Andrea Loman ended up three for six in the two games with three runs scored, two RBI and a home run … getting acclimated to playing outdoors again, the Notre Dame outfield struggled defensively with three errors in its first two games.