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Softball: Irish lose Big East lead after doubleheader loss to Louisville

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Notre Dame was unable to stay on top of the Big East standings Monday as it was swept in a doubleheader for the first time this season at No. 21 Louisville.

The doubleheader was a makeup of Sunday’s rain-postponed games and marks the first time the Irish (34-17, 14-4 Big East) have lost three consecutive games since March 3.

“Any time you get swept it affects the team negatively,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We have to move on quickly and stay focused because this is going to be a tough week ahead of us.”

The Cardinals (34-8, 13-3) moved up to second place in the Big East standings and South Florida took over atop the conference leaderboard as the Irish fell to third place. Although Notre Dame has already secured a spot at the Big East championships at the Belleville Softball Complex in South Bend this month, they will need some help to win their eleventh consecutive Big East regular season title.

Louisville 2, Notre Dame 1 (8)

The Irish stayed close with the Cardinals for seven innings in game one, but fell short after Cardinals catcher Lacey Wood’s home run over the left field fence won the game for Louisville in the bottom of the eighth.

Louisville was on the verge of losing in the bottom of the seventh, down 1-0 with one out, but third baseman Audrey Rendon hit a fielder’s choice to second base that scored pinch runner Brittney Counts from third and forced extra innings.

The hit was only the fifth allowed by Notre Dame right-hander Heather Booth in her seven innings of work, but she was given no run support after the first inning.

In the top of the first inning, Notre Dame third baseman Meagan Ruthrauff knocked a hard-hit ground ball through the left side of the infield to drive in Stephanie Brown and open up the scoring.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that would be the only time the Irish would hold a lead all day as they would surrender a run in both the seventh and eighth innings.

Booth struck out seven batters and allowed two runs on five hits. But the lack of run support greatly hurt Notre Dame in game one, especially its inability to respond to the Louisville run in the seventh.

“I think we came out ready for most of game one,” Gumpf said. “But we just didn’t bring it to win in the seventh and ended up with the loss.”

Louisville 10, Notre Dame 3

Notre Dame was unable to rebound from the tough loss in game one against the Cardinals, falling behind early and failing to make any comeback in the loss Monday. Notre Dame threatened in the top of the first with the bases loaded and two outs, but a Sara Schoonaert ground out got Louisville out of the jam.

Notre Dame righty Brittney Bargar started for the Irish, but failed to escape the first inning after being shelled for four runs on five hits after only two-thirds on an inning.

Bargar could not work her way out of any jams in the game, falling into a bases loaded situation early in the inning. Gumpf sent in Boot, but she could not stop the onslaught either, surrendering another four runs before the game ended.

Notre Dame’s offense did show some signs of life after the first inning with two runs in the top of the second driven in by second baseman Katie Laing and an unearned run scored by Sara Smith.

But the run support the Irish could muster was too little, too late as the big first inning put the game out of reach and gave Louisville the sweep over Notre Dame.

Brown and Ruthrauff especially shone in the doubleheader.

“Brown and Ruthrauff were definitely the most consistent offensively getting the momentum going,” Gumpf said. “They have been hitting amazingly well all year and continued to do so in this game.”