April 1, 2004
Perhaps it was the team looking forward to conference play on Friday. Perhaps it was the four-day lay off from competition. Whatever the reason, the University of Notre Dame softball team (24-10) did not show up to play in game one at Western Michigan (13-16) on Thursday afternoon and walked away with a doubleheader split.
Western Michigan won the first game 2-0, while Notre Dame came back to claim game two 5-1.
The Broncos Laura Stewart shut the Irish bats down in game one, allowing just one hit and striking out nine. For a bit of perspective, Notre Dame has been held to one hit or less only three times this season.
While Stewart baffled the Irish hitters, the Western Michigan bats were able to touch sophomore Heather Booth for seven hits – the most Booth has given up this season since the 10-inning marathon contest at #4 Florida State. While the Broncos did not hit any ball particularly hard, they took advantage of their opportunities while Booth attempted to deal with a strike zone that, to her defense, was inconsistent throughout the game.
Western Michigan scored immediately in the bottom of the first in game one when Booth walked Mary McCloskey to open the frame. After a fly out, WMU moved McCloskey to second with a sacrifice bunt and she scored on a soft single to rightfield off the bat of Amy Fleming.
The Broncos tacked on another run in the third when McCloskey singled, moved to second on yet another sacrifice bunt and scored off a Jaymie Voss double just over Nicole Wicks’ head in rightfield.
Notre Dame’s lone hit in the game was a lead off double by Sara Schoonaert in the third. Typical of Notre Dame’s frustrations in the first game, she was stranded at third when Carissa Jaquish fouled out on a bunt attempt, Wicks struck out and Stephanie Brown tapped back to the pitcher.
The Irish also put together a threat in the top of the seventh when Mallorie Lenn and Liz Hartmann both battled through long at bats to draw to consecutive walks with no outs. Schoonaert flied out to leftfield, followed by strikeouts from Jaquish and Wicks to end any chance of a comeback.
Notre Dame did come out ready to play in game two and left Kalamazoo with some positive energy after a 5-1 victory. The Irish jumped all over WMU starter Jamie Voss in game two, tagging her for four hits and four runs in the top of the first. Stephanie Brown and Nicole deFau posted back to back bunt hits to get on base and Megan Ciolli moved them into scoring position with a ground ball back to the pitcher. Meagan Ruthrauff then reached on a fielder’s choice – hitting a ground ball to third on which WMU third base Tricia Vanderslik tried to tag out Brown drifting off third but was a second late.
Lenn then stepped in with the bases loaded and drilled a single through the left side, driving in Brown and deFau – with Ruthrauff moving to third and Lenn to second on the throw home. After Liz Hartmann drew a walk, Schoonaert followed with a single to right-centerfield, allowing Ruthrauff and Wicks (the DFO in the second game, running for the DP Lenn) to score.
Starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein kept the Broncos off the base paths for most of the game, giving up four hits, one run and striking out six.
Notre Dame’s fifth run came on a solo homer by Hartmann in the top of the sixth inning – her sixth of the season.
The Irish return to Ivy Field on Friday at 4 p.m. to face BIG EAST Conference foe Connecticut.
DOUBLEHEADER NOTES: Notre Dame left six runners on base in the first game, as Stewart had nine strikeouts but also walked five batters … Liz Hartmann was two for three in game two with a double and a solo home run … Gessica Hufnagle made her first start at catcher for Notre Dame in game two and came through with her first career hit – a solid single up the middle … with Notre Dame’s bottom lineup struggling offensively, Steffany Stenglein hit for herself in game two and picked up a hit – the second of her career and first since 2002 … Megan Ciolli stole her 15th base of the season in game two and will break into the top five all-time on the single season list with two more thefts … Mallorie Lenn continues to improve at the plate, drawing two walks in game one and going one for four in game two with two RBI.