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Softball: Cardinal bats meet Irish pitchers

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Notre Dame (23-12, 7-1 Big East) will take a brief break from its Big East schedule to play Ball State at 5 p.m. today at Ivy Field.

Irish senior infielders Meagan Ruthrauff and Sara Schoonaert lead a high-powered Notre Dame offense into the matchup. Schoonaert, who was 4-for-9 Sunday against Pittsburgh, played a key role in the weekend’s onslaught, as the team posted 21 runs and hit five homers in two games. Notre Dame won the first game 7-0 and the second contest 14-4.

Ruthrauff set two school records with three home runs and seven RBIs in the Sunday’s second game. Her third and final homer was a grand slam in the seventh that capped a perfect day at the plate. The unprecedented production also won her Big East Player of the Week honors Monday.

“I am seeing the ball very well right now, and this is the most confident I have been with my swing all year long,” Ruthrauff said.

After racking up 30 runs on 50 hits this weekend, she said everybody on Notre Dame seems to be seeing the ball very well. Ball State’s pitching staff will have to step up for the Cardinals to slow down the Irish offense and leave South Bend with a victory.

The Irish also used the long ball effectively the last time they met up with Ball State. Notre Dame won the game 4-1 on April 7 last year thanks to a three-run homer off the bat of then-Irish senior Liz Hartmann.

The Cardinals arrive with an overall record of 9-16 (3-5 in the Mid-American Conference) after dropping a pair of games at Western Michigan. During the short series, Ball State had trouble getting to Broncos pitcher Krysten Shumaker. Notre Dame also struggled in its one meeting with Shumaker March 26, but the Irish won 2-1 in extra innings.

“She pitched really well and was able to shut us down for most of the game,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said.

Notre Dame senior pitcher Heather Booth will take the mound today. Booth had 11 strikeouts in her last appearance en route to a complete-game shut out of Pittsburgh. The rest of the staff has performed nearly as well as Booth, combining with the senior for a team ERA of 1.69.

“Our pitching needs to be as solid as it has been all year, and our hitting has to continue from last weekend,” Ruthrauff.

The balanced attack has been the key to Notre Dame’s success all year long, Ruthrauff said. That balance has led the Irish to a second-place standing in the Big East. And it’s a balance focused solely on Notre Dame’s own squad, Ruthrauff said.

“It does not matter who we face, it is a matter of what we as a team bring to the ball field day in and day out,” she said.

The Irish return to Big East action Thursday against DePaul at 4 p.m. on Ivy Field.