May 20, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team (49-18) won its fifth-straight first round NCAA Championship game on Thursday afternoon, defeating DePaul 8-6 in game three of the Region VI Tournament in Ann Arbor. The Irish move on to face the winner of the Michigan – Canisius game (in progress) at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first and held on to down the Blue Demons, who rallied with a grand slam in the fifth inning. Irish starting pitcher Heather Booth earned her 25th victory of the season, giving up 10 hits, six runs (all earned) and walking two. Notre Dame drove DePaul starting pitcher Sarah Martz out of the game quickly (1.1 IP, five hits, six runs), who falls to 24-14 on the year.
Though Booth did give up 10 hits, DePaul posted a number of infield hits – with arguably the only very hard hit as the home run by Saskia Roberson in the top of the fifth. Notre Dame, on the other hand, buried DePaul early with six runs in the bottom of the second inning. Two huge doubles highlighted the inning for the Irish, one from freshman Carissa Jaquish and another from classmate Stephanie Brown. Junior BIG EAST Player of the Year Megan Ciolli ended up three for four with two RBI and a stolen base.
The victory is the fifth straight for Notre Dame on the first day of NCAA regional competition. The Irish defeated UIC 2-0 in 2000, Western Illinois 8-0 in 2001, Iowa 3-2 in 2002 and Missouri 4-3 in 2003. On Friday, the Irish hope to become just the second Notre Dame team to win its first two games in a regional – as the ’01 team defeated Illinois State 2-1.
DePaul moves on to face the loser of Canisius – Michigan at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. In other tournament action, Oregon State defeated Bowling Green 7-0 and Tennessee posted a big 10-0, five-inning victory over UIC in game two. Bowling Green and UIC meet in the first elimination game Thursday evening at 8 p.m., while Oregon State and Tennessee will battle at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
DePaul threatened in the top of the first with two infield hits, and the Irish looked like they escaped the inning with a great double play by freshman Stephanie Brown. With runners on first and second, Dana Kenney hit a ground ball to Brown at second base. The Irish rookie smothered the ball, tagged Jenny Doezie on the way to second and threw to first for a great double play.
The call was made by the umpire just two feet away from the play. After an argument by DePaul head coach Eugene Lenti (with the teams already in both dugouts), the dreaded umpire conference came together and reversed the call. Kenney was called out on the play, but the runners were allowed to advance to second and third. Booth struck out Sara Polensky to end the inning without any damage.
The Irish came back from the umpire snub motivated, putting up six runs in the bottom of the second. Liz Hartmann led off with a ground ball single that popped over the DePaul third baseman. After Meagan Ruthrauff popped out, Nicole Wicks reached on a fielding error by Sara Bandauski at shortstop.
Freshman Carissa Jaquish followed with a bloop hit to leftfield, allowing Hartmann to score and Wicks to advance into third base. Jaquish never stopped running to second on the hit for a double.
With runners on second and third and one run in, Sara Schoonaert crushed a line drive back to Sara Martz in the pitching circle. Martz got her glove on the ball, but it dropped to the dirt – allowing Wicks to score on a great slide around the tag at home plate. All the runners ended up safe on the play as well (Schoonaert moved to second base when the DePaul players were arguing about the call at home plate).
Brown then delivered a two run double to drive in the third and fourth run for Notre Dame. DePaul continued to struggle on defense when Nicole deFau reached on a fielding error by Christina Douglas at second base. Ciolli then crushed a double to centerfield (missing a home run by a few feet) to drive in the fifth and sixth run of the inning.
DePaul called on Traci Addix to pitch and she immediately escaped the inning when Mallorie Lenn drilled a pitch to shortstop. Bandauski caught the bal at the top of her jump and tossed to second to double off Ciolli.
The Irish tacked on another run to their lead in the bottom of the fourth when Brown led off with a single, moved to second on a ground ball and scored on an RBI single by Lenn.
DePaul caught up in a big hurry in the top of the fifth on a grand slam by Saskia Roberson. Booth lost some of her control she had displayed early in the game and found herself in trouble with two walks. Tracy Addix actually led off the inning with a double, her first collegiate hit. After Polensky walked, Booth struck out Parker and got the second out of the inning on a fielder’s choice. With runners on the corners, Martz drew the second walk of the inning and Roberson crushed the first pitch she was offered deep over the leftfield fence for a grand slam. Notre Dame’s seven run lead was suddenly cut to three.
After a one-two-three inning for the Irish in the fifth, DePaul kept the pressure on with a leadoff hit in the top of the sixth. Doezie followed with a single through the left side to put two runners on and the tying run at the plate.
Booth reached one out with a soft line drive to second base by Adix. Polensky then lifted a fly ball to leftfield which deFau quickly ran under and caught on her knees. DePaul was caught in a hit and run and Bandauski was doubled off second base easily for the third out of the inning.
The big double play might have motivated the Irish offense as well. Notre Dame added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Ciolli posted a two out single to centerfield. She stole second base (her 20th theft of the season, one away from tying the school record) and scored on an RBI double by Lenn.
The Blue Demons did not go quietly in the top of the seventh, putting the first three runners on via bloop hits to short leftfield. To make matters worse, Roberson was due, who crushed a grand slam in her previous at bat.
Roberson grounded out to shortstop for the first out, driving in her team’s fifth run of the game. Christina Douglas followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in the sixth run, but by now the Irish were comfortable exchanging runs for outs. Sarah Douglas ended the game with a ground ball back to the pitcher.
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame’s 49 victories in 2004 set the mark for the second-most in a single season in the program’s history, behind the 54 victories posted in 2001 … head coach Deanna Gumpf moves to 3-0 on the first day of NCAA regional play in her career with today’s victory … Heather Booth increases her school record for complete games in a season to 29 with today’s victory … sophomore catcher Mallorie Lenn had a great offensive day for Notre Dame, going two for four with two RBI … freshmen Gessica Hufnagle (catching in the fourth and fifth inning), Kenya Fuemmeler (pinch runner) and Carissa Jaquish (one for one, RBI) all saw action in their first career NCAA game on Thursday … Megan Ciolli’s three for four performance was the ninth three-hit game of the season for the junior … Liz Hartmann finished one for four with a run scored against DePaul … Meagan Ruthrauff flied out deep to the warning track in her last at bat in the sixth inning.