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ND Softball: Ruthrauff’s early season success no surprise

Justin Schuver | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The weekend did not begin at all as planned.

The Irish had already amassed an 0-4 record at the Palm Springs Classic and were in danger of going 0-5 as they faced a dominating Tennessee team with a 16-1 record and a No. 5 national ranking.

But after Meghan Ruthrauff came up to bat in the third inning and smacked a three-run home run over the left field fence, the team’s snoozing bats finally came to life and Notre Dame knocked off the vaunted Vols 5-2.

Not that anyone should be surprised. Ruthrauff has a history of making the big hit.

“When I go up to the plate, I just look for something in my zone, and if it’s there, I swing at it,” Ruthrauff said. “Against Tennessee, the ball just looked like a beach ball on its way up there, and I really think I’ve been seeing the ball better just in general this season and it’s really made me a better hitter overall.”

Already this season, the junior first baseman is hitting .276 and has five RBI, second on the team to senior Megan Ciolli. But Ruthrauff has already put her name in the record books after having 54 RBI last season and placing herself second all-time for the Notre Dame RBI in a season mark – Melanie Alkire’s 64 in the 2000 season is first.

Ruthrauff has also proven herself to be a patient hitter in addition to coming through in the clutch – in the 2003 season, she set the Notre Dame single season record for walks with 36.

“When you see pitches well, it’s a lot easier to realize which pitches are ones you should lay off of,” she said. “I’m a much more disciplined hitter this season.”

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s also ranks first on the all-time fielding percentage list with a .995 mark. And that mark was set despite being rotated between positions – Ruthrauff has played at first base, shortstop and third base during her Notre Dame career.

Ruthrauff might not be the best overall hitter on the team, but it’s hard to find a player who is more well-rounded.

On a team that features a national player of the year candidate in Ciolli, Ruthrauff has still done plenty to prove her worth to the Irish. In 2003, she was named a member of the Big East all-rookie team as well as a starter on the all-conference team. She repeated that all-Big East honor in 2003, joining six fellow Notre Dame teammates.

Ruthrauff is one of several Irish players from the state of California and was a prep superstar for La Serna High School in Whittier, helping her team win two Division III state championships. While at La Serna, Ruthrauff set the school records for batting average and hits in a season.

It was Notre Dame’s atmosphere that led Ruthrauff to leave the sun of California for the harsh winters of Northeast Indiana.

“There’s just something special about this place,” she said. “When I took my recruiting trip up here, I realized right away that the people were friendlier and the campus just had this special feeling that I didn’t sense from any of the other schools I visited.

“I really think it’s one of those things Notre Dame has that separates it from the other universities.”

Despite starting the season 5-6, albeit against several highly-ranked teams, Ruthrauff believes her team will prove itself to be a formidable force this season because of its close-knit teammates.

“The camaraderie on this team is stronger than it’s ever been,” she said. “I think that we treat each other like sisters, whether we win or lose, and that’s really going to be a big help for us when we go into the postseason this year.”

You can be sure that Ruthrauff will do her part to make sure the Irish win more than they lose.