Feb. 29, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team (10-4) capped its greatest performance at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Georgia Tech (15-3) to earn the tournament Silver Bracket Championship.
The win capped a great day by the Irish pitching staff, as Steffany Stenglein went the distance to pick up the complete game victory. She went the distance, striking out eight and did not allow a run after the first inning.
The Notre Dame offense was represented on two big hits – solo home runs by Nicole Wicks (in the third inning) and the winning blast by Meagan Ruthrauff in the sixth. Ruthrauff capped a great tournament, as the sophomore hit three home runs during the weekend and contributed nine RBI.
The two victories on Sunday give the Irish a four-game win streak to end the tournament and mark the best finish the Irish have enjoyed in six trips to the NFCA Leadoff Classic.
Georgia Tech scored first when Stenglein had a hard time settling down to begin the game. She walked the first two batters she faced before getting two strikeouts to almost escape the inning. Lauren Schlechte made her pay, however, with an RBI single deep into the whole at shortstop. Sara Schoonaert was able to field the ball, but the throw across the diamond was late and Georgia Tech had a 1-0 lead after the first inning.
Stenglein struck out Amy Hosier to end the inning.
Georgia Tech enjoyed their lead for two innings until Nicole Wicks, who played great during the weekend in place of the injured Kellie Middleton, drilled a lead off home run in the top of the third. It was Wicks second home run of the tournament.
The Irish kept the pressure on in the third when Stephanie Brown singled to leftfield and moved to second and third on two separate passed balls. Schoonaert then drew a walk to put runners on the corners with no outs. Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf decided to call a double steal to test the Yellow Jacket defense, but it passed its test with flying colors. Schoonaert broke for second, but Georgia Tech cut off the ball and threw home in time to get Brown attempting to score from third.
With first base open, Ciolli laid down a perfect bunt single to put runners back on second and third for Ruthrauff. Ruthrauff eventually struck out looking while Ciolli stole second base to get in scoring position for Liz Hartmann. Hartmann bounced into a ground out to second base to end the Irish scoring threat.
The game transformed into a pitchers duel throughout the middle innings until the Irish walked into the batter’s box in the top of the sixth. Ciolli led off with a deep fly ball to the fence in right which was caught, but Ruthrauff followed up on the next pitch with her third home run of the tournament to put the Irish ahead 2-1. A great throw by Notre Dame’s lone senior, Nicole deFau, kept the Irish in the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Amy Hosier drilled a double to the wall with two outs and looked like she was going to score on a single from Sara Wissman, but deFau made a perfect throw home, catcher Carissa Jaquish put down a great tag and the inning ended with the Irish still holding a one run lead.
NOTES: Ruthrauff finished the NFCA Leadoff Classic seven for 19 (.368) at the plate with nine RBI and three runs scored.