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ND SOFTBALL: Hartmann sparks Irish comeback

Justin Schuver | Friday, April 8, 2005

With the Irish playing sloppy softball and her team down 1-0 in the fourth inning, Liz Hartmann took matters into her own hands.

With runners on the corners and one out, Hartmann blasted a home run to left field off Ball State starter Amy Brownfield. Notre Dame took the lead and would add an insurance run later in the inning to earn a 4-1 victory.

“I rounded first thinking the ball was going to hit off the wall, but I saw the umpire signal that it was out. I was shocked,” Hartmann said. “I was sure it was going to graze the top of the wall. It was nice to take the lead and put them away after a sloppy beginning to the game.”

With the victory, Notre Dame (22-8) extended its winning streak to 11 games. Ball State (12-23) only managed three hits all game off Irish pitchers Heather Booth and Steffany Stenglein.

Booth started the game, pitching the first four innings and allowing three hits and one unearned run. She was replaced in the fifth inning by Stenglein, who did not allow a single Ball State baserunner and struck out six of the nine batters she faced, including five in a row at one point.

“Heather really only gave up one hard hit ball,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Most of the hits were little dribblers, but those caused damage because they were able to score on our defensive error. She’s got to control that hard hit ball, but we’ve got to play defense the way we should play defense.”

Ball State took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of some sloppy Irish defense. Sarah McGregor led off the inning with an infield single and stole second base.

Taylor Yancey then blitzed a hard ground ball to the middle of the infield and Notre Dame second baseman Katie Laing made a nice diving stop under pressure to stop the ball.

But Laing threw wildly to first, allowing McGregor to score and Yancey to move up to second base. At the time, it was the second Irish error of the game, and Gumpf decided to call a meeting at the mound.

“I told our girls that they had to be aggressive on defense and attack the ball more often,” Gumpf said of that meeting. “We were too passive out there, and I told them they needed to be a lot more aggressive out in the field.”

Following that meeting, Booth and the rest of the Irish defense settled down, with Notre Dame getting three consecutive outs with no further damage to get out of the inning.

It didn’t take long for the Irish to answer. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Megan Ciolli led off with a bunt single and then stole second base. After Meghan Ruthrauff struck out, Laing dropped a bloop single to put runners on the corners with one out.

Hartmann then jacked a home run to left field, and Mallorie Lenn followed with a double to center field that almost cleared the fence as well.

Sarah Smith pitch ran for Lenn and moved up a base on Carissa Jaquish’s groundout to third. Sara Schooonaert followed with a clutch RBI single to right, scoring Smith from third base.

Stephanie Brown grounded out to third base to end the inning.

Stenglein came on in the fifth and pitched masterfully, helping the Irish stay undefeated at home (6-0).

Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh Saturday for a doubleheader with the Panthers.

The Irish softball team will not return to Ivy Field until a doubleheader against Akron on April 21.