March 31, 2001
The University of Notre Dame softball team (24-3, 2-0) swept its third consecutive doubleheader with 8-0 and 1-0 victories over BIG EAST Conference rival St. John’s at Ivy Field on a cloudy and dreary Saturday afternoon. Should the weather hold, Notre Dame will face Seton Hall on Sunday (April 1) at 11 a.m..
Continuing the trend set in its two doubleheader sweeps of Valparaiso and Western Michigan earlier this week, the Notre Dame pitching staff turned in another dominating performance against the Red Storm. Senior All-American Jen Sharron (Agoura Hills, Calif.) posted another major accomplishment that had previously eluded the Irish lefthander in her career – a no-hitter. Sharron completely shut down the St. John offense in the first game, allowing just three baserunners to reach, two getting hit by a pitch and one advancing on an error. The no-hit performance was the 24th in Irish history.
The Irish offense was equally adept in the first game of the twin bill. Seven different Notre Dame batters posted a hit in the contest, led by Lizzy Lemire’s (Irvine, Calif.) two-for-three performance.
Jenny Kriech (Indianapolis, Ind.), Notre Dame’s top hitter this season with a .398 average, tripled to lead off the game and scored on Alexis Madrid’s (Temecula, Calif.) sacrifice fly to rightfield. Melanie Alkire (Union City, Calif.) and Jarrah Myers (Carbondale, Kan.) both drew walks and scored on a Lemire RBI double and the Red Storm suddenly found themselves down three runs.
As Sharron kept cruising along, Notre Dame would put four additional runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third. Madrid led off with a double and Alkire drew a walk to give the Irish a bit of momentum. St. John’s picked off the lead runner by catching Madrid attempting to steal, follwed by a Myers fly out. The Red Storm seemed poised to get out of the inning unscathed.
Lemire responded with a single to centerfield and Andrea Loman (Riverside, Calif.) snapped out of a mini-slump with a two-RBI double down the leftfield line. Andria Bledsoe (Higley, Ariz.) then lined another double to score Loman and eventually came home on a single by Sharron.
Needing just one run to end the game early, Alkire took matters into her own hands with a solo home run over the leftfield fence in the bottom of the fourth. It was Alkire’s first homer of the year and 26th of her career, tieing Katie Marten (1994-97) for the most in Notre Dame history.
Sharron finished her no-hitter by striking out the side in the top of the fifth.
The offensive fireworks in the first game were replaced by two strong pitching performances in the second. Freshman Kristin Schmidt (Houston, Texas) continued her impressive rookie campaign, pitching her fourth shutout of the season while allowing just two hits. St. John’s starter Courtney Fitzgerald was equally effective, scattering seven Irish hits across six innings of work.
The teams remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. Alkire led off with a double, followed by a Myers double to the centerfield wall for the lone RBI of the game. The Irish were ready to put more runs on the board when Loman singled and advanced to second while Myers took third base. St. John’s escaped the inning by throwing Myers out at home on a Bledsoe grounder and getting designated player Kas Hoag (Wallingford, Conn.) to ground out to second base.
Even with her solid pitching peformance, Schmidt would need some Irish defensive help to escape the seventh inning. SJU’s Alesha Argeras led off with a long double to the leftfield wall, putting the tieing run on second base. Ann Raab attempted to move Argeras to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Irish first base Loman fielded the ball cleanly and threw Alkire at third base. Raab was initially safe, but slid past the bag and Alkire applied the tag for the first out of the inning. Red Storm shortstop Tiffany Howerton then lined out to Bledsoe at third base and the Irish sophomore caught Raab drifting too far off the bag at first and completed the double play with a solid throw to Loman.
Ominous weather moved into the area toward the end of the second game, placing the Irish matchup with Seton Hall in Mother Nature’s hands tomorrow. The doubleheader is scheduled for 11 a.m., at Ivy Field.
DOUBLEHEADER NOTES: Melanie Alkire picked up where she left off in her last BIG EAST contest, going two-for-three with four runs scored and an RBI today … Jen Sharron was just two hit-by-pitches and an error away from a perfect game in the first contest … Kristin Schmidt has lowered her season ERA to 0.74 … Schmidt and Sharron are now both above 100 strikeouts on the season (Schmidt 109, Sharron 105).