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Offense quieted late in backbreaking loss to Michigan

Justin Schuver | Wednesday, August 27, 2003

It was a real Jekyll-and-Hyde game – an offensive explosion for two innings, and then a pitcher’s duel for the last five. Unfortunately, it was the Irish who came up short in the final score.On May 17, Notre Dame’s 2002-03 season came to an end with a 5-3 loss to Michigan in the NCAA Region VII Tournament. The Irish ended the season with a final record of 38-17.Michigan continued on in the tournament to face California in the regional championship, losing 1-0 to the Bears. California would advance to the national championship game, losing 1-0 to UCLA.”I think we’ve been on the bubble of the College World Series for three straight years now,” said coach Deanna Gumpf. “We want to maybe go in a new direction next year and do what we can to reach that next step.”It was the Wolverines who leapt out to the lead early in the game. The bottom of the first inning began with two Notre Dame errors before Melinda Moulden hit a three-run home run to give Michigan a 3-0 lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Irish came right back to tie it up in the top of the second with a three-run home run from left fielder Liz Hartmann.”That’s how we were all year,” Gumpf said. “We got ourselves out of tough jams all year. Our girls really fought, but they just didn’t have enough to get it done this time.”Notre Dame got its leadoff runner on base in the inning when first baseman Lisa Mattison hit a single up the middle and was replaced by pinch runner Sara Schoonaert. Designated hitter Megan Ruthrauff struck out on four pitches for the first out of the inning, but catcher Malorie Lenn drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second.Hartmann came to the plate to face Michigan pitcher Marissa Young, who threw the first pitch of the at-bat out of the zone before the coaching staff came out to settle her down.Young settled down a bit too much, as Hartmann took the very next pitch and connected with a bomb to left field to tie the game at three runs apiece.Right fielder Nicole deFau continued the rally by lacing a double to left-center with one out.Young came back to strike out centerfielder Megan Ciolli, and forced second baseman Alexis Madrid to ground out to the pitcher to end the Irish threat.The Wolverines continued the offensive barrage in the bottom of the second, scoring two runs off Irish starter Heather Booth.Those were all the runs Michigan would need, as the game suddenly evolved into a pitching duel.Booth would only give up one hit in the final five innings, and Young would give up zero. Young pitched an incredible game for the Wolverines, striking out 14 batters in seven innings of work, including striking out the side in the top of the seventh inning.”We were hitting pretty well off her in the early innings,” Gumpf said of Young’s pitching.”I felt that she did a good job of finding the girls’ weaknesses and keeping our hitters off balance. She seemed to get better the longer she pitched,” she said.At the same time, the Irish head coach was proud of her own starting pitcher, not just for the game but also for the whole season.”I was impressed with Heather the entire season,” Gumpf said. “She was forced into a difficult situation but showed some real maturity. I think she’ll get better and better over the years.”