April 30, 2004
he University of Notre Dame softball team (41-14, 14-0) secured a spot in the 2004 BIG EAST Championship with a doubleheader sweep of Virginia Tech (34-21, 9-9) on Friday evening at Ivy Field. The Irish won game one 5-0, then took game two 9-1 in five innings to assure themselves at least 28 points in the final conference standings (Notre Dame still has six league games remaining this season).
Those 28 points, regardless of the outcome of the rest of the conference slate, will insure the Irish among the top four teams in the regular-season standings.
Both the Irish offense (15 total hits in the two games) and pitching (only five hits allowed, 14 strikeouts) showed up to play on a cloudy but warm Northern Indiana evening.
Several Irish players starred in the batter’s box, led by junior centerfielder Megan Ciolli. Putting up five hits in the two games, Ciolli drove in four runs (including a walk off RBI single in the fifth inning of game two) and also scored two runs. Sophomore Mallorie Lenn was three for three with a single, double and triple in game two and the Irish catcher also drove in three runs.
Liz Hartmann crushed her eighth home run of the season in game one, posting the first two runs of the doubleheader for Notre Dame. She finished two for three in game one. Meagan Ruthrauff also hit a home run, this one in game two after a great 11-pitch at bat. Her home run drove in three of Notre Dame’s runs in game two.
The effort of the Irish pitching staff cannot be overlooked in the team success. Sophomore Heather Booth was simply dominant in game one, completely shutting down the Hokie offense. She gave up one hit (a single through the left side by Virginia Tech game one starting pitcher Katie Maynard) and struck out nine – hitting the nine K mark for the seventh time in 2004.
Steffany Stenglein was highly effective in game two as well. She scattered four hits (touched for one run in the third inning) and struck out five in five innings of work. Both Stenglein and Booth improved to 7-0 in conference play this season.
Notre Dame will move on in conference play to face Pittsburgh on Sunday at 11 a.m. – the final home game of the season for the Irish and senior leftfielder Nicole deFau.
DOUBLEHEADER NOTES: Meagan Ruthrauff became just the third player in Notre Dame softball history to reach the 49-RBI threshold with her three-run homer in game two … with her next RBI, she will become just the second Irish player to reach 50 RBI in a season (Melanie Alkire had 64 RBI in 2000) … Ruthrauff has already set a record, as her 33 walks this season breaks Jarrah Myers 30 free passes from 2002 … Megan Ciolli pushed her batting average back over .400 in the doubleheader, as she is currently hitting .408 … Liz Hartmann hit her team leading 11th double in game one … Heather Booth improved to 20-6 on the season with her game one victory, reaching the 20-win mark for the second time in her career (she was 21-10 as a freshman last season) … Booth has also broken in to the top five in single-season shutouts, earning her ninth on Friday … she is tied with Terri Kobata (1995) and Missy Linn (1989) on that list … Kobata (1993) and Jennifer Sharron (2000) are next on the list in fourth with 12 shutouts.