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Irish sweep first four conference games

Justin Schuver | Monday, April 5, 2004

After just four games, the Irish have already shown that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big East this season.

Notre Dame (28-10, 4-0 in the Big East) opened its conference schedule by sweeping Connecticut (13-14, 1-3) by scores of 9-1 and 10-0 Friday, and then followed that up with a sweep of Boston College (20-15, 2-4) by the scores of 5-0 and 7-1 Sunday.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Coming into conference play I wasn’t really sure how they would react, but we really played our game this weekend. We were able to shut people down and hit the ball really well, and that’s what we’re capable of.

“It’s just a matter of whether we can do it every time or not.”

Freshman Stephanie Brown had by far her best performance of the year in an Irish uniform in Friday’s sweep, as she finished the day with a 5-for-6 performance with six RBI, four runs scored and two home runs. One of those home runs was a grand slam in the second game of the doubleheader.

“Stephanie was awesome for us on Friday,” Gumpf said. “It was a really great day for her and you could tell she was really having fun out there as well.”

While the offense of the Irish came through in a big way in Friday’s games, the pitching was solid as well. Heather Booth recovered from a 2-0 loss against Western Michigan Thursday to pitch the complete-game six-inning victory in game one against the Huskies.

Booth allowed five hits, one run and struck out six. Steffany Stenglein picked up the win in game two, allowing just two hits while striking out five.

Game one Friday started off looking like it would be close, with each team scoring one run early in the game. Notre Dame’s run came in the top of the first, when Nicole deFau led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and came home when Connecticut failed to cover the plate on that wild pitch.

Suzie deBarry countered with an RBI single in the top of the second for Connecticut, but Notre Dame jumped back ahead in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Megan Ciolli.

The Irish scored three more runs in the bottom of the third and never looked back en route to the eight-run victory.

Notre Dame continued its offensive onslaught in game two, with Megan Ruthrauff crushing a pitch to right field for a three-run home run in the top of the first inning. It was Ruthrauff’s eighth home run already this season. The Irish put the game away in the third, scoring seven runs in the inning including Brown’s grand slam.

Booth and Stenglein pitched even better in the games Sunday against Boston College. Booth collected her sixth shutout of the season in game one, scattering five hits while striking out five.

Stenglein allowed only one hit and one unearned run while striking out eight Eagles batters and walking one.

“They’re really stepping up well for us,” Gumpf said of her two starters. “I thought that [Sunday] they faced some good hitters and they were able to shut them down. They really dominated, and that’s what they’re going to have to do in the Big East if we’re going to get to the postseason.”