April 12, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team (21-12) won its seventh and eighth BIG EAST Conference games of the season with a doubleheader sweep of Connecticut (7-24, 1-9) at Ivy Field Friday evening. The Irish won the first game 1-0 in eight innings, then took the second game 8-0 in six innings on a pinch-hit walk-off double by freshman Annie Dell’Aria.
Game one of the doubleheader turned into an old-fashioned pitching duel. Irish freshman Steffany Stenglein and Connecticut junior Barbara Cook baffled both team’s hitters for seven full innings, allowing just nine hits in the game until Notre Dame came to bat in the bottom of the eighth.
With two outs, Megan Ciolli ripped the first pitch she was offered down the rightfield line for a double. Andrea Loman followed with the game-winning single through the left side to drive in the only run of the game and give Stenglein her 12th victory of the season.
Connecticut had a hard time mustering any offense against the Irish righthander, as all four of the Husky hits came with two outs in the inning. The Huskies did not even get a runner to second base over the course of the entire eight innings.
After Notre Dame threatened in the bottom of the first, Cook was equally impressive. She ended up surrendering seven hits while striking out four. Stenglein’s four scattered hits came with eight strikeouts and is the third shutout of the season for the Irvine, Calif., native.
Both coaches went with the same starting pitchers in game two and most observers figured it was just a test of will. Which pitcher was going to get tired first?
Unfortunately for the Huskies, Cook would not be able to finish the game or have her stamina tested. After Andria Bledsoe led off the second inning with a double, Lisa Mattison drilled a ball straight back to Cook in the circle. The Husky pitcher had no chance of getting out of the way, as the ball struck her in the head an ricocheted into leftfield.
Play was stopped immediately after Bledsoe scored and Mattison reached second base. Cook eventually left the field under her own power and the Notre Dame medical staff would end up stitching the wound and no bones were broken.
Claire Hesson came off the bench to take over the game for Cook and escaped the inning unscathed. Kas Hoag entered to pinch run for Mattison with Liz Hartmann due up. Hartmann fouled out to the catcher for the first out of the inning.
After Nicole deFau was hit by a pitch, Alexis Madrid fouled out to the shortstop and Hoag was doubled up at third base attempting to advance on the play.
Notre Dame tacked on another run off a Connecticut miscue in the fourth. With one out, Bledsoe singled and advanced to second on a Mattison ground out. Hartmann then reached base on a throwing error by the UConn third basemen that allowed Bledsoe to score from second.
Two more Irish runs came in the fifth inning. With one out, Jenny Kriech drew walk and Ciolli followed with a triple to the left-centerfield gap to score one run. Loman got Ciolli home with a ground out to third base.
With the Irish up four runs and coming to bat in the sixth, Connecticut changed pitchers and Caryn Haskins took the ball. Bledsoe led off the inning by drawing a walk and stealing second. Mattison was walked on five pitches and Hartmann walked on four pitches to load the bases for designated player Nicole deFau.
deFau drove in the first run of the inning with a single through the left side. Annie Dell’Aria came off the bench to pinch-hit for Madrid and came through in her traditional pinch hit role again. After Mattison scored on a wild pitch, Dell’Aria drilled a 1-2 pitch down the rightfield line to score deFau and Hartman to end the game on the eight-run rule.
Stenglein left the game after giving up just one hit over four innings to get the win and looked strong. Carrie Wisen worked the last two innings and gave up just two hits.
Notre Dame extended three notable streaks in the game. The two victories give the team 13 straight this season, as the Irish have not lost since March 16. The Notre Dame BIG EAST Conference regular-season win streak now stands at 36 games and the team has won its last 26 games at Ivy Field.
Those streaks get put on the line this Sunday, April 14, against Syracuse at 11 a.m. (doubleheader).