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Justin Schuver | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sara Schoonaert delivered with a two-out, two-run walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to complete an amazing comeback as Notre Dame (36-10) defeated No. 15 Northwestern (34-11) 4-3 at Ivy Field Tuesday.

The Irish were shut down offensively in the first six innings of the game, as Northwestern starter Eileen Canney and reliever Courtnay Foster – who replaced Canney in the fifth – allowed just one hit in that time frame.

“[Canney] was throwing really hard and jamming our batters early on, but then we started to hit a few atom shots that were right at the defense,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We started hitting her later in the game, so they brought in their ace [Foster], and she had trouble finding the plate so we were able to take advantage of that.”

Foster came into the game with a 16-5 mark but could not get out of the seventh inning after shutting down the Irish in order in the bottom of the sixth. Katie Laing opened the inning with a flyout, but then the Irish loaded the bases, and Foster was replaced with Canney. But Canney could not work out of the jam, and Notre Dame came away with perhaps its biggest win of the second half of the season.

“This game was a result of knowing that we have the ability to come back,” Gumpf said. “We’ve done it before, and it’s good for our girls to know they can do it again. That’s a really important aspect for a team to have.”

Heather Booth started the game for the Irish, scattering three hits over four innings before being replaced with Steffany Stenglein. Stenglein struggled, allowing three earned runs – one in the fifth and two in the seventh – while striking out six batters.

Northwestern took the lead 1-0 in the fifth when Garland Cooper singled to score Katie Logan. The Wildcats added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh, with Stephanie Churchwell picking up an RBI on a double and Cooper hitting her second RBI single of the game.

Facing a three-run deficit, the Irish needed baserunners and got a few gifts early. Megan Ciolli was hit by a pitch with one out and Meaghan Ruthrauff followed with a walk. Foster then allowed a single to Carrie Wisen, and an error allowed Ciolli to score the first Irish run of the game.

Kellie Middleton followed Wisen with a walk, loading the bases and knocking Foster out of the game. Canney got Mallorie Lenn to hit a ground ball up the middle, but the grounder was bobbled for the second Wildcat run of the inning, allowing Ruthrauff to score from third and reloading the bases for Liz Hartmann.

Hartmann popped up and left any hopes of an Irish comeback on the bat of Schoonaert, who delivered, slapping a single through the middle that scored both Wisen and Middleton.

Notre Dame’s win over the Wildcats is the team’s fourth victory over a ranked foe this season. The Irish have previously defeated then-No. 19 Florida, then-No. 21 South Florida and then-No. 5 Tennessee.

“This win was important for us,” Gumpf said. “We’ve shown that we’re capable of beating anybody if we both pitch well and hit well. We haven’t been able to put those two things together too often this year.”

Notre Dame returns to Big East conference action Friday, as the Irish take on Boston College in a doubleheader at Alumni Field starting at 3 p.m.