Feb. 27, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team began the 2004 NFCA Leadoff Classic with a 2-1 victory over Northwestern State (9-6) on Friday afternoon at the South Commons Softball Complex. The Irish are now 6-3 on the season and will immediately turn around to play #6/6 Georgia around 5:30 p.m. EST.
Meagan Ruthrauff provided the offense for the Irish against the Demons, cranking a two-run home run (her first of the season) in the top of the first inning. Notre Dame starting pitcher Heather Booth made the two-run lead stand, going all the way for a complete-game six-hitter. Booth had seven strike outs and did not allow a run after the first inning. The South Commons Complex was underwater as recently as Wednesday afternoon, which translated to a muddy infield for all the competitors in the tournament. Notre Dame lead off hitter Megan Ciolli took advantage of the slow infield laying down a perfect bunt single to begin the game. After Sara Schoonaert struck out and Mallorie Lenn flied out, Meagan Ruthrauff jumped all over the first pitch she saw from NW State starter Christa Miller. The ball ended up far over the leftfield fence for Ruthrauff’s first round tripper of the season.
The Demons came back to get one run in the bottom of the first when Nicole Martin drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on a single from Lindsay Leftwich.
Notre Dame put together a scoring threat in the top of the third when Stephanie Brown reached on a fielding error by the NW State third basemen Leftwich. She was soon at second base after Ciolli slapped a hit past a charging Leftwich for an infield hit.
Miller fought back, however, getting Schoonaert to pop up in short rightfield and Mallorie Lenn to foul out to shortstop on the first pitch. After fighting off several pitches, Ruthrauff lined out to centerfield to end the inning without an Irish run crossing the plate.
Booth escaped a threat in the bottom of the fourth when NW State put runners on first and third with two outs. After battling Trayce Thompson for 12 pitches, Booth uncorked a perfect change up to get the Irish out of the inning and maintain the lead 2-1.
As both team’s offenses continued to struggle through the middle innings, it seemed destined to be a battle to the end. NW State got the lead off runner on in the bottom of the sixth, as Martin reached on a single up the middle. A mental error helped the Irish out, however, when Danzy lifted a routine pop up to Ruthrauff at first base. Martin ran to second on the play, allowing an easy two outs for Ruthrauff who caught the ball and dove back to the bag for an unassisted double play. After issuing a walk, Booth struck out Kiana Scott to end the inning.
Would the Irish get an insurance run in the top of the seventh? The answer would be a resounding “No” – as deFau and Wicks grounded out on the first pitch they were offered. Carissa Jaquish did get a hit down the leftfield line, but Stephanie Brown flied out to centerfield to end the inning.
Nicole deFau started out the bottom of the seventh with a great defensive play, running down a fly ball in foul territory and making a diving grab for the first out.
Continuing the inning, Booth jumped ahead of Patterson 0-2, but then hit her with the next pitch. Booth came right back to get a strike out on a nice change up past Nichols and went back to her effective change up again to strike out Noack and end the contest.
NOTES: Notre Dame will be without the services of starting rightfielder Kellie Middleton this weekend … Middleton was injured in practice before the Irish travelled to Columbus and is out indefinitely … Nicole Wicks replaced Middleton in rightfield … the Irish made a nice defensive play in the bottom of the fourth to keep NW State at bay when Nicole Martin had a single to rightfield (which just skipped off the glove of Wicks), but was cut down at second base when Megan Ciolli backed up the play and fired to Schoonaert at shortstop … NW State defeated #24/24 CS Fullerton 4-1 to begin play in Pool V on Friday afternoon before facing the Irish.