March 11, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (11-7) won its fifth consecutive game, and fourth in Hawai’i’s Spring Fling tournament, defeating Nevada (8-12) 7-1 on Friday afternoon. With the victory, the Irish assure themselves of the number one seed when seed play begins on Saturday, and will face the winner of the #4 seed versus the #5 seed at 11 a.m. Those teams will be decided in Friday afternoon’s late games.
A victory at 11 a.m. will propel the Irish into the Spring Fling championship game at 3 p.m. before the team heads back home to campus late Saturday evening.
The Irish offense, defense and pitching showed up against Nevada on Friday, led by a three for four, three-RBI effort from junior first base Meagan Ruthrauff. Ruthrauff is hitting .500 in the tournament (five for 10) with a team-high six RBI.
Junior Kellie Middleton, the Irish leader in team batting average during the tournament, was a key factor again going two for four in the game with two stolen bases and an RBI.
Heather Booth pitched six brilliant innings before allowing a single run in the seventh to spoil her shutout bid. She ended up allowing one run over seven innings, five hits, two walks and struck out six. Booth improves to 7-3 with the win and picks up her second win the tournament to go along with one save in four games.
Four games into the tournament, the Irish are batting .417 as a team with 45 hits, six doubles and 21 RBI. Their opponents are hitting just .148 and have scored just four runs, while the Irish have posted 25 runs.
After a quite first inning, Mallorie Lenn (six for 12 in the tournament) posted a one-out base hit down the rightfield line in the top of the second, followed by what looked to be a double to the left-centerfield wall. Lenn held up at first, however, ignoring the signs from her third base coach (the third time in the last two games the Irish have made base running errors by not watching the third base coach). Laing ended up with a single on the play and Lenn was forced to stop at second base.
The base running error did not cost the Irish, however, after Liz Hartmann struck out and Gessica Hufnagle fouled out down the leftfield line to end the inning.
Notre Dame finally started to string some hits together and would end up batting around in the fourth inning off Nevada starting pitcher Candice Rainwater and reliever Jordan McPherson. Meagan Ruthrauff led off with a single to centerfield and was replaced by pinch runner Nicole Wicks. Lenn followed up with another hit to rightfield, allowing Wicks to move to third base.
Laing posted her second hit of the game with a single to centerfield, driving in Wicks, sending Lenn to third and advancing to second base on the throw home.
Liz Hartmann was due next and she came through with a sacrifice fly to centerfield, driving the 100th run of her career. With Laing at third base, Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf called on Carrie Wisen for a pinch-hit at bat. With Nevada possibly thinking about another sacrifice fly with just one out in the inning, Gumpf shocked everyone by calling for the suicide squeeze. Wisen laid down a perfect bunt and an aggressive slide by Laing at home plate dislodged any possible tag.
The Irish did not stop there. Hufnagle re-entered to run for Wisen and Schoonaert laced a single to rightfield. After a pitching change, Stephanie Brown drew a walk to load the bases for Middleton. The sophomore leftfielder came through, drilling a single to leftfield for an RBI.
Megan Ciolli stepped in next and drilled what appeared to be a single to rightfield, but the ball jumped up and caught the back of Middleton’s cleat on the way to second base. She was called out on interference and all runners were forced to return to their previous base. Ruthrauff made sure the Irish did not miss out on a scoring opportunity by posting yet another single in the inning – this one to leftfield which allowed two more Irish runs to score.
Lenn, who joined Ruthrauff in earning two at bats in the fourth inning, grounded out to end the Irish hit streak.
By the time Notre Dame headed back to the dugout in the middle of the fourth inning, they had hammered out six hits and six runs to take complete control of the contest.
A great defensive play by Nevada erased another scoring opportunity by the Irish in the fifth inning. With one out, Hartmann and Hufnagle posted back-to-back singles, but Schoonaert crushed a ground ball to Nevada’s Jiliane Hartfiel. The Wolfpack third base fielded the ball cleanly, stepped on third and threw across the diamond to get Schoonaert by a step to turn an inning-ending double play.
The Irish added another run to their lead in the top of the sixth when Ciolli posted a two-out hit to rightfield and scored on a double over the Nevada rightfielder’s head by Ruthrauff. The double was Ruthrauff’s third hit of the game and her third run batted in as well.
Nevada spoiled Booth’s shutout bid in the bottom of the seventh when Cindy Elkins doubled with one out. After a single from Lindsey Hall, Kari Stockstill drove in the Wolfpack’s only run of the game with a dribbling single up the middle.
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame will not know who its possible match up at 11 a.m. on Saturday will be until the completion of today’s games … so far in the tournament, Campbell is 2-1, Virginia is 0-3, Nevada is 1-2, Hawai’i is 1-1 and the Irish are 4-0 … most likely, the Irish will face the winner of Hawai’i – Campbell, though Nevada is not out of the running for the third seed … Meagan Ruthrauff’s three-hit day was the first of the year for the Irish first basemen and the third of her career.