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ND SOFTBALL: Timely hits move win streak to 18

Justin Schuver | Monday, April 18, 2005

April may be the cruelest month, but it’s been just fine for the Irish.Notre Dame (29-8, 8-0 Big East) maintained its perfect Big East record and improved its winning streak to 18 games as the Irish swept Providence (26-13, 4-6) and Connecticut (14-22, 4-10) in road doubleheaders this weekend. Notre Dame defeated the Friars, 1-0 and 5-4, Saturday afternoon, then knocked off the Huskies, 2-0 and 3-2, Sunday.The Irish played several games over the weekend that came down to the team’s final at bats. Against Providence in game two, Notre Dame was down 4-3 after six innings, only to have Meaghan Ruthrauff and Katie Laing hit back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs to lead the Irish to the comeback, 5-4 victory.In game two against Connecticut, the Irish went ahead 2-0 early and allowed the Huskies to come back and tie the game at two runs apiece to send the game into extra innings. But Laing came through once again, slapping a double to center to score Megan Ciolli.Laing scored the game-winning run in game one against the Huskies, as well, launching a solo home run in the second inning. The freshman finished the weekend with three RBIs, all three scoring game-winning runs.”She’s a gamer,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “She came through big for us again and again this weekend. She always came up with big hits at big times.”Steffany Stenglein was nearly unhittable on the mound for the Irish. She set a personal best against Providence in game one, striking out 15 batters and coming within three outs of throwing a no-hitter. The senior nearly matched that performance the next day, striking out 14 batters in Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over Connecticut.”She’s finally starting to realize just how good she is,” Gumpf said. “Now that she realizes her talent, she’s expecting to do good every time she goes out there.”Against Providence on Saturday, Stenglein had to be nearly perfect be-cause the Irish could only score one run for the senior hurler. Steph-anie Brown scored the lone RBI in the game in the third inning, hitting a sacrifice fly to score Sarah Smith from third base.In game two, the Irish scored its first run without an RBI, as Kellie Middleton stole home during a double steal. Notre Dame added two more runs in the second inning, with Sara Schoonaert slapping an RBI triple to score Mallorie Lenn and Brown then following with a single to score Schoonaert.The Irish fell apart in the fourth inning, as Providence scored four runs to take the lead. Laing and Ruthrauff’s heroics helped the team come back, and Stenglein closed the game out to keep Notre Dame’s winning streak alive.”Right now we’re doing just enough to win, but our girls know that’s just not good enough,” Gumpf said. “We’ve got the Big East tournament coming up in a few weeks and we have to play even better.”Sunday in game one, Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the second off Laing’s home run, and closed out the scoring with a two-out RBI single by Middleton in the third inning. In game two, Megan Ciolli knocked home an RBI double to score Brown in the first inning, and Carissa Jaquish had an RBI double of her own in the fourth inning to score Laing from second base.Connecticut came back with runs in the fourth and seventh innings to tie the game. Christine Keeton scored the tying run with a two-out RBI single. But Laing gave the Irish the lead again in the eighth inning, and pitcher Heather Booth closed out the bottom of the inning for the complete game victory.Notre Dame travels to DePaul for a doubleheader Tuesday, then returns home to face Akron in a two-game series Thursday.