April 2, 2004
One could not script a better beginning to the BIG EAST Conference schedule for the University of Notre Dame softball team. The Irish, coming off a split at Western Michigan on Thursday, overwhelmed Connecticut (13-14, 1-3) on Friday evening, defeating the Huskies 9-1 in six innings and 10-0 in five innings. Notre Dame is now 26-10 on the season and 2-0 in BIG EAST play.
The star which shone the brightest for Notre Dame on Friday was freshman leadoff hitter and second basemen Stephanie Brown. In her greatest day since donning the Irish uniform, Brown ended up five for six in the two games with six RBI, four runs scored and two home runs – including a grand slam in the second game. Junior Liz Hartmann was also five for six on the day with two RBI.
In all, Notre Dame racked up 22 hits in two games (14 in the first, eight in the second) and played only 11 of a possible 14 innings (in softball, the game is ended after five innings if one team has an eight run lead). The Irish pitchers, lost in the offensive explosion, threw well to pick up the two wins. Heather Booth recovered from her set back at Western Michigan on Thursday to pitch six strong innings in the first game, allowing five hits, one run and striking out six. She is now 13-4 on the season. Steffany Stenglein pitched game two and dominated, allowing just two hits and striking out five for her 10th win of the year.
Notre Dame will move on to face Boston College on Sunday at 11 a.m. The Eagles went up against Syracuse on Friday evening.
GAME ONE RECAP:
Nicole deFau gave the Irish an early lead when she doubled with one out in the bottom of the first, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when UConn failed to cover home plate on the wild pitch.
UConn came right back to get one run in the top of the second off three hits. Maggie Arbogast led off with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Laura DeMello. Mandy Schettini followed with a single through the left side to put two runners on base.
The Huskies attempted to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, and seemed to get the play they needed – with Ashleigh Campen getting thrown out at first. The ball was called foul, however, after hitting the plate and Campen returned to the batter’s box. Irish starting pitcher Heather Booth took advantage of the opportunity with a strike out for the first out of the inning.
Suzie de Bary was due next for UConn and she came through with a laser beam single just past the glove of Brown at second base. DeMello scored easily on the play, but Notre Dame caught Schettini too far off third for the second out on a solid tag from Hartmann. Booth struck out Holly Calcagno for the third out and end the UConn scoring threat.
Notre Dame jumped back in the lead in the bottom of the third when Stephanie Brown singled to shortstop, stole second and scored on an RBI single up the middle by Megan Ciolli.
The Irish tacked on four more runs in the next inning, helped by three consecutive singles from Hartmann, Sara Schoonaert and Carissa Jaquish – with Jaquish picking up an RBI. Nicole Wicks then drove in Schoonaert with a ground ball and the third and fourth runs came on a towering home run by Brown to straight-away centerfield.
Connecticut did put together a rally in the top of the fifth, loading the bases on a walk, single and hit by pitch. Booth, who was up and down with her control in the contest, hunkered down to strike out DiBiase for the first out of the inning. With a bit of momentum, Booth then sat down Quan with three great change ups – a pitch she was having trouble getting over the plate earlier in the inning. Booth then escaped the inning unscathed when D’Angelo popped up the first pitch she was offered to Hartmann at third base.
Notre Dame’s seventh run came in the fifth off Krista Michalczyk, when Lenn crushed a pitch to centerfield for a no-doubt home run – her third of the year.
The Irish ended the game early on the eight-run rule in the bottom of the sixth with two outs. Brown drilled a single, stole second and scored on a triple from deFau. Ciolli was due next and she came through with an RBI single to centerfield, ending the game and giving the Irish a 9-1 victory.
GAME TWO RECAP:
Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead in game two – in much the same fashion as the team did on Thursday at Western Michigan. This time, however, it was Meagan Ruthrauff with the big hit. Ruthrauff fought off three pitches, then stroked a three-run home run to rightfield for her eighth of the season and to break out of a mini-slump (she was 0-12 entering game two against the Huskies).
After two scoreless innings, the Irish decided to explode for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the game out of reach. Hartmann led off with a single and Schoonaert attempted to move her to second on a sacrifice bunt. UConn third base Stephanie DiBiase threw the ball in the dirt, however, and both runners were safe on the play.
Jaquish was due next for Notre Dame and the Irish went for a double steal at first and third, but Schoonaert was called out for leaving early. Jaquish would eventually walk, followed by another base on balls to Nicole Wicks, loading the bases for Brown. The rookie crushed her second home run of the day deep to centerfield – with the ball careening off the top of the Notre Dame hitting cages well behind the outfield wall.
Sensing another run-rule victory, Notre Dame did not let up. Nicole deFau posted a laser beam double down the rightfield line. Ciolli was then hit by a pitch to put two runners on for Ruthrauff, who sharply singled up the middle to score deFau and put herself and Ciolli in scoring position. Hartmann then lifted a double to rightfield for two more RBI in the inning to put up the final score of 10-0.
DOUBLEHEADER NOTES: The bottom of Notre Dame’s line up, which has struggled over the last two weeks, played a major role in Notre Dame’s victory in game one … Sara Schoonaert and Carissa Jaquish both had singles during Notre Dame’s four-run fourth inning … Liz Hartmann was three for four in the first game of the day, posting her fourth three-hit game of the season … the offensive stars of the day are almost too numerous to name, in addition to Brown and Hartmann, Nicole deFau was four for six with four runs scored and an RBI, Megan Ciolli was three for five with three RBI and two runs, and Meagan Ruthrauff was two for six with four RBI and two runs scored … the 10-0 victory in game two is the biggest win for Notre Dame over Connecticut in 27 meetings … the Irish hit four home runs on the day and now have 29 as a team – looking to threaten the single season home run mark (54, set in 2002) … Stephanie Brown’s batting average jumped from .286 going into the two games to its current state of .314 … Hartmann moved from .258 to .293 with her five hits.