April 14, 2002
It was a day of good and bad news for the University of Notre Dame softball team. The Irish rallied to defeat Syracuse 3-1 (17-11, 5-1) in the first game, but were shutout by Orangewomen pitcher Tara DiMaggio in game two 3-0. Notre Dame is now 22-13 on the season and has a firm grasp on first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a 9-1 record. Due to a change in the way the conference compiles the league standings this season (two points for a win, one point for a tie, no points for a loss), Notre Dame is alone in first place with 18 points. The Orangewomen, who will attempt to make up their doubleheader with Pittsburgh (rained out Saturday) on Monday, have 10 points.
The play on Sunday afternoon was dictated by both team’s pitching. In both games, there were just 15 hits and only seven runs scored between the two teams. Notre Dame’s Steffany Stenglein and Syracuse’s Heather Brown squared off in game one.
Both pitchers were in full control early, but the Orangewomen were able to strike first after a lead off walk in the second. Tanya Rose doubled to the wall in the next at bat to drive in the first run of the game.
Stenglein settled down, though, and struck out the next two batters. Irish catcher Jarrah Myers ended the inning by throwing out Rose at third base attempting to steal.
Notre Dame’s offense would finally start getting to Brown in the bottom of the fourth. Andria Bledsoe attacked the first pitch of the inning and sent a towering home run over the leftfield foul pole for a solo home run to tie the game. Brown then hit Lisa Mattison with a pitch to put a runner on second. After Liz Hartmann lined out to leffield, Carrie Wisen followed by fighting back from an 0-2 count to send a double to the wall in leftfield.
With runners at second and third, Annie Dell’Aria stepped in to pinch hit against new Syracuse pitcher Taylor Peterson. Peterson was able to strike Dell’Aria out on four pitches, but leadoff hitter Jenny Kriech would come through for her team. Kriech popped a double into the space between the second basemen, first basemen and outfielder in rightfield to drive in Wisen and Mattison for the winning run.
Stenglein worked solid fifth, sixth and seventh innings for her 14th win of the season.
True to the form the Irish have established this season, Stenglein started game two and went head to head with DiMaggio.
Syracuse would get to Stenglein in the top of the first. Kate Kaempfer, the hardest out in the Orangewomen line up on the day, doubled down the leftfield line with one out. After she advanced on a wild pitch, Cheryl Julicher drove her in with a bloop single to centerfield.
The one run would be all DiMaggio would need. Working all around the strike zone, DiMaggio kept the Irish hitters off balance throughout the game. Megan Ciolli did triple with one out in the bottom of the first, but DiMaggio came back to strike out Andrea Loman and induce a pop out from Myers to end the inning.
After Kaempfer homered with two outs in the third inning, Ciolli got back in scoring position with a double to lead off the fourth. Once again, DiMaggio would sit down the heart of the Irish order. Loman popped out, Myers walked and Bledsoe and Mattison struck out to end another scoring threat.
With Wisen in for relief, Syracuse would touch her for an unearned insurance run in the seventh. After a line out to Loman at third base, Julie Dunn drew a walk. Nikki Lincoln then reached base on a fielder’s choice when her ground ball out to Alexis Madrid at second struck the runner and pinch runner Becky Snyder moved to third. Pinch hitter Courtney Nickerson eventually drove Snyder in with a ground out to short stop.
The Irish attempted a mini rally in the bottom of the seventh, led by a Mattison single with one out. DiMaggio struck out Liz Hartmann next, but Wisen kept some hope alive with a single through the leftside. Madrid flied out to centerfield to end the game.
Three notable Irish winning streaks ended in the loss. The Notre Dame BIG EAST Conference regular-season win streak ends at 36 games, the Ivy Field win streak stops at 26 games and the loss in game two was the team’s first in 14 games.
Notre Dame will be back in action three times next week. On Wednesday, Indiana State visits for a doubleheader followed by two games against Bowling Green on Thursday. BIG EAST Conference action returns on Sunday, with a key doubleheader against Virginia Tech.