May 3, 2002
It wasn’t the outcome the University of Notre Dame softball team (36-14, 16-2) was looking for on Friday at Ivy Field. The Irish ended up splitting a doubleheader 2-5 and 10-1 (five innings) with Rutgers (20-25, 9-10) and missing out on a chance to clinch the BIG EAST Conference regular season title and number-one seed for the league championship.
The Notre Dame – Villanova doubleheader on Sunday becomes the key match up in the league this season. Notre Dame is currently 16-2 with 32 points in the league standings, while Villanova will enter Sunday’s games 14-4 with 28 points. An Irish split would give them the number one seed, while a Wildcat sweep would provide Villanova with an tie in the points race and an edge in the tie breaker (head-to-head record).
Notre Dame lost game one in a very strange way. Irish starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein carried a no-hitter and a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh. Both of the Irish runs were provided by the hot-hitting Liz Hartmann (sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and RBI single in the sixth).
Rutgers hitters Meaghan Asselta and Jennifer Card led off the seventh inning by drawing two walks on nine pitches. Stephanie Johannsen then came through with a single to centerfield to load the bases.
Stenglein was strong throughout the game, so Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf stayed with her ace. Crystal Vargas soon tied the game with a single to centerfield and advanced to second on the throw home.
With the score tied and still no outs on the board, RU’s Megan Antonucci laid down a bunt in an attempt to get the go-ahead run home. Stenglein fielded the ball cleanly, but her throw to Myers at home was high and the runner was safe on the play.
Wisen entered the game in relief of Stenglein, but her first pitch was wild and the fourth Scarlet Knight run scored. The fifth run of the inning came across on a Brittney Neer RBI single.
Once Wisen finally ended the inning, Rutgers starting pitcher Leah Black (who allowed five hits and two runs) worked a perfect inning in the bottom of the seventh, retiring Alexis Madrid, Jenny Kriech and Megan Ciolli, to hand Notre Dame its first loss in 14 games.
Rutgers did not start Black in game two, turning instead to starting pitcher Andria Koehler for the possible sweep. The Notre Dame offense quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back.
A Ciolli one-out single in the first was followed by an Andrea Loman double to put runners at second and third. Jarrah Myers then drove in both runners with a single to centerfield. After Bledsoe bounced into a fielder’s choice and Myers was thrown out at second base, Lisa Mattison singled to rightfield while Bledsoe advanced to third.
Hartmann drew a walk and Irish starting pitcher Carrie Wisen helped her cause with a two-RBI single to centerfield. Madrid lined out to leftfield to end the first inning.
The top of the Irish order rotated around again in the second inning and Loman came through with a two-run home run. Bledsoe also singled in the inning and scored on a Mattison double.
Notre Dame added two more runs on a Ciolli sacrifice fly in the third inning combined with a Scarlet Knight fielding error and one more run came in the fourth and a Wisen sacrifice fly.
Wisen ended up working a strong five innings, giving up just four hits and one run while striking out seven.
Notre Dame’s key match up with Villanova starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday.