April 25, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (35-10, 11-1 in the BIG EAST) split a key conference doubleheader with Seton Hall (28-13, 13-3 in the BIG EAST) on Monday afternoon. The Pirates edged out a 2-1 nine-inning victory in game one, spoiling a record day for Irish starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein. Notre Dame cruised to an 11-4 victory in game two.
Notre Dame will be back in action tomorrow in a single game vs. #15 Northwestern at 5 p.m.
Analyzed as a pitcher’s duel on paper, game one played out to the prediction as Stenglein went head to head with Seton Hall’s Megan Meyer. Stenglein pitched a more dominating game – posting a school-record 19 strikeouts over nine innings and allowing just three hits – but ended up taking the hard-luck loss.
Meyer pitched a strong game as well, striking out 11 in nine innings and scattering five hits – but her offense was able to scratch out one more run on the scoreboard.
Seton Hall took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Katie Pierce led off with a double into the left-centerfield gap – the only hard hit ball allowed by Stenglein. The Pirates immediately laid down a sacrifice hit to move the runner to third – and Pierce scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by D’arcy Djakalovic. Djakalovic’s fly ball ended up in short centerfield, but a miscommunication in the Irish outfield allowed Pierce to score easily on the play.
Notre Dame would not be able to answer until the seventh inning, but the team’s two top hitters came through when the Irish needed a big hit. Senior Megan Ciolli recovered from an 0-2 count to drill a single up the middle and she scored all the way from first on a double to the wall by junior Meagan Ruthrauff.
Ruthrauff actually moved to third on the throw home to get Ciolli, but she would be stranded there when freshman Katie Laing flied out to very short leftfield and senior Liz Hartmann struck out.
Not coming through on the scoring opportunity would haunt the Irish, as Seton Hall scratched across the winning run in the top of the ninth. Stenglein hit the first batter of the inning, Akoua Lonergan, but she was forced out at second base on a ground ball by Pierce.
Pierce moved to second on a passed ball and, after Stenglein struck out Caitlin White, Djakalovic popped a ball up on the infield behind first base.
Ruthrauff was unable to field the cue-ball shot behind the bag and Laing was just a few feet short of making the play. The ball hit in fair territory, bounced into foul territory and allowed Pierce to score from second base.
The fluke hit could not be answered by the Irish in the bottom of the ninth and Seton Hall posted its fifth-straight win in the series against Notre Dame.
That winning streak would not last long, however, as the Irish cruised to an 11-4 victory in game two.
Notre Dame started scoring in the second inning when senior DP Carrie Wisen singled and was replaced by pinch runner Nicole Wicks. Wicks moved to second when junior Kellie Middleton walked. Both runners then moved up a base when junior Mallorie Lenn laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt.
Hartmann followed with a solid single to centerfield to drive in the first two runs of game two.
Seton Hall decided to pull Megan Meyer at that point, as the Pirate staff ace had started game two (Meyer eventually took the loss, as the Pirates never tied up the game to get their pitcher off the hook). She was up against Notre Dame junior Heather Booth, who pitched well until the fifth inning.
Notre Dame tacked four more runs on its lead in the third inning, with the big hit provided by Lenn’s first home run of the season (a two-run shot). Ruthrauff also drove in Ciolli with a double in the inning as well.
Thing started to fall apart for Booth in the fifth inning, however. A walk and two singles loaded the bases for the heart of Seton Hall’s order, but Booth was unable to find the strike zone and walked in two runs. With Notre Dame’s lead now just 6-4, Stenglein entered game two and shut the door – allowing a bloop single down the leftfield line that scored one run, but the third out of the inning was thrown out at the plate.
Stenglein would retire Seton Hall quietly the rest of the day, while Notre Dame added five more runs on its lead. Laing provided a two-RBI single in the fifth inning and the Irish scored three in the sixth on two hits and an error by Seton Hall.
After the tumultuous fifth inning, the game suddenly shifted into a question as to whether Notre Dame could end the game early on the eight-run rule, but Laing popped up with runners on first and third in the sixth inning to push the game to regulation length.
GAME NOTES: Seton Hall will continue in first place in the league standings with a 13-3 overall record … due to the BIG EAST Conference point system (voted on by a majority of the league coaches), Notre Dame (11-1) will remain in a second place tie with Syracuse (11-3) with 26 points in the league standings, although the Irish have a better league winning percentage than any other BIG EAST team … Seton Hall has a doubleheader remaining this season at Providence on April 30 … Syracuse will play at Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame next weekend … the Irish will need to sweep their BIG EAST doubleheader next weekend (vs. Boston College, vs. Syracuse) to catch Seton Hall in the league standings … the BIG EAST Conference point system does not penalize a loss – so Notre Dame’s rain outs at Rutgers (1-11 in league play) count just the same as a loss due to the point system … should Notre Dame need the Rutgers games to be played to determine an important seed place in the BIG EAST Championship, they will fit them in on the weekend of May 6-7 (the Irish had a scheduled weekend off before BIG EAST play).