May. 1, 2005
The University of Notre Dame softball team (39-11, 14-2 in the BIG EAST) moved closer to the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title with a doubleheader sweep of Syracuse (27-20, 11-7) on a cold blustery day at Ivy Field. The Irish won game one 6-1, then claimed the sweep with a 7-3 victory in game two.
Notre Dame pounded out 19 hits in the two games and exploded for a combined nine runs in the third inning of the two contests. Junior Kellie Middleton was two for three in the first game with career-high five RBI, while senior Carrie Wisen provided the big hit with a bases loaded, three-RBI double in game two. Senior Steffany Stenglein picked up the victory in game one, pitching seven innings, allowing three hits one unearned run and striking out 11. Junior Heather Booth was the game winner in the second contest, allowing eight hits and three runs over six innings.
With a league record of 14-2, the Irish have locked up second place in the BIG EAST Conference standings and still have a make up doubleheader scheduled against Rutgers this Saturday, May 7. A sweep of the Scarlet Knights will give the Irish the regular-season title and number one seed in the BIG EAST Championship, as two victories would push the Irish past Seton Hall (15-3) in the conference standings.
Notre Dame jumped out to a lead in the third inning of game one when Kellie Middleton stepped in with the bases loaded and crushed a triple into the left-centerfield gap. Pinch runner senior Nicole Wicks, junior Sara Schoonaert (two for three in game one with a single and double) and sophomore Stephanie Brown all scored on the play. Middleton, attempting to catch the Syracuse defense sleeping while on third immediately tried to swipe home – but was thrown out on the play. In the end, however, the Irish would claim a three-run lead.
That three-run cushion would prove to be all Steffany Stenglein would need. Continuing to dominate, her conference competition the senior righthander struck out 11 to reach double-digit strikeouts for the 13th time this season and the seventh time in eight starts in conference play (she had nine in a five-inning victory over Boston College on Friday). She was unusually wild on Sunday, walking six batters but did not allow the free passes to hurt her on the scoreboard by getting some key strikeouts.
Notre Dame added to its lead in game one when Schoonaert doubled with one out in the fifth inning. Brown followed with a single to put runners on the corners and Middleton crushed another extra-base into centerfield. Schoonaert and Brown easily scored on the play, but Middleton was late picking up Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf’s stop sign around second base. By the time she picked up her coach she was half way to third base and was cut down by the Syracuse defense 8-6-5.
Notre Dame tacked on a final run in the sixth inning when junior Meagan Ruthrauff drew a walk. Pinch runner freshman Sarah Smith eventually scored on an RBI single by junior Mallorie Lenn.
Syracuse spoiled Stenglein’s shutout bid in the seventh inning when leadoff hitter Tanya Rose was hit by a pitch. She made it to second on a throwing error by the Irish (advancing to third on the play) and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Alexis Switenko.
The Orange jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Heather Booth in game two before the Irish righthander could settle down in the middle innings. Rose led off the game with a hit and was sacrificed to second base. After an infield hit by Cassie Morales, Rose scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze play and the Irish found themselves down a run quickly in game two.
Notre Dame posted the equalizing run in the second inning. Freshman Katie Laing doubled into the right-centerfield gap to lead off the inning and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Liz Hartmann. Laing scored the game-tying run on a RBI ground ball by Lenn.
Syracuse edged back in front 2-1 in the top of the third inning on a bases loaded infield single by Switenko – but Booth closed the door on further damage with a pop up, strikeout and pop up to end the inning.
The Irish took control of the game in the bottom of the third – exploding for six runs and sending 11 batters to the plate in the inning.
Middleton led off the inning and reached first when she was hit by a pitch. She stole second base and ended up at third on an infield hit by senior Megan Ciolli. Ruthrauff followed by drawing a walk to load the bases for Wisen – who responded with a rope down the leftfield line – clearing the bases with a three-RBI double.
Laing kept the hit parade going with a solid single to leftfield and Hartmann followed with a two RBI single into centerfield after Laing stole second base to get in scoring position. The sixth run of the inning was scored on an RBI ground out by Schoonaert.
Syracuse scratched across a run in the fifth inning when she loaded the bases on two hits and a walk – eventually walking in the third Orange run of the game. She escaped the inning with a strikeout and pop out.
Booth, while warming up for the seventh, briefly jammed her knee – giving way to Stenglein in relief. Booth was fine after the game and will be ready for this weekend’s conference action.
GAME NOTES: Sunday was Senior Day at Ivy Field, the final home game for the 2005 senior class of Megan Ciolli, Liz Hartmann, Steffany Stenglein, Nicole Wicks and Carrie Wisen … Ciolli finished the day two for seven with a run scored, two steals and just missed a home run in her final home at bat by driving a pitch to the wall in the sixth inning of game two … Hartmann was two for five with two RBI and a run scored … Stenglein pitched in both games, picking up her 19th victory of the season in game one … Wicks scored a run in game one and played three innings in rightfield during game two with one plate appearance … Wisen finished the two games one for seven with three RBI.