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ND SOFTBALL: Irish top Volunteers to end weekend slide

Ryan Duffy | Monday, February 28, 2005

Though most of the weekend didn’t go as planned, Notre Dame proved once again they still have the talent to go out with a bang.

The Irish opened the Palm Springs Classic with four losses on Friday and Saturday, but came back on Sunday to post a 5-2 upset win over No. 5/6 Tennessee. It was the third time this season that Notre Dame had knocked off a nationally ranked team, with wins over No. 21 South Florida and No. 19 Florida in the GRU Classic earlier in the year.

The Irish handed Tennessee their first loss of the tournament thanks in large part to a three-run homer from junior Meghan Ruthrauff in the third inning. Heather Booth pitched well against the Lady Vols to earn her third victory of the year.

The loss was only Tennessee’s second in the last 18 games, and improved the Irish record to 5-6. Tennessee is the highest-ranked team Notre Dame has defeated since April 23, 2002, when they took down No. 4 Nebraska 3-2 in Lincoln.

The win served as an important recovery for the Irish, who were looking to rebound from losing the first four games of the tournament, including a rough 2-1 loss to Arizona State (11-2) the previous night.

After starting off the tournament with three straight losses, coach Deanna Gumpf decided to change things up by switching her defensive lineup back to the 2004 starting team. Sara Schoonaert moved from second base to shortstop, Stephanie Brown moved from right to second base, where she was replaced by Nicole Wicks in her first start of the season and Mallorie Lenn moved behind the plate after playing the first nine games of the year as the designated hitter.

The switch sparked the Irish defense, allowing them to turn their second double play of the year and allowing only one error. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, their one error came at a most inopportune time. Leading 1-0 heading into the sixth, third basemen Liz Hartmann bobbled a grounder trying to throw out the Sun Devils’ leadoff hitter. Arizona State’s Valerie Sevilla, the next batter up, slammed a two-run homer than turned out to be the game-winner.

Despite allowing the deciding home run, senior Steffany Stenglein kept Notre Dame in the game, getting out of trouble when she needed to and giving up eight hits while striking out five. After allowing the sixth-inning home run, she struck out two batters and got a groundout to keep the Irish within a run.

Notre Dame took an early lead in the contest when Megan Ciolli crushed a home run in the third inning. Ciolli, a Player of the Year candidate, is now hitting .355 with a home run, six RBIs, and four stolen bases for the season.

Notre Dame 1, No. 20 Pacific 9

Junior Heather Booth matched Pacific’s Alyce Jorgensen pitch-for-pitch as the game started out as a pitcher’s duel with no score through the first three innings. After Pacific got on the board with a fourth inning two-run homer, Notre Dame fought back with a run in the bottom of the inning when Meagan Ruthrauff doubled and came home on an RBI single by Schoonaert. But the Irish would get no closer. The shaky Notre Dame defense started a scoring rally by Pacific in the sixth, and the game quickly changed from a close contest to a rout as Pacific managed to score six times in the inning.

Notre Dame 1, No. 3/4 UCLA 3

The Irish started strong against the highest ranked team they have faced this season when Ruthrauff drove in Ciolli in the top of the first. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Bruins came right back in the bottom of the inning with two runs off starter Heather Booth. Both pitchers were dominant past the first inning, with only five batters reaching base for both teams combined during the remaining six innings. However, the damage was already done for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame 0, Loyola Marymount 7

The Irish matched Loyola-Marymount with seven hits, but could not get on the board thanks to a few missed opportunities and sloppy play. Stenglein went four innings, giving up three hits and five runs but only one earned. She didn’t get much help from her defense, which committed two key errors in the fourth inning to open the door for four unearned runs to score. The loss snapped the team’s four-game winning streak.