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Inconsistent offense gives 3 -1 break record

Justin Schuver | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Saturday at home, the Irish couldn’t miss the ball. Monday and Tuesday, one wondered if they had left their bats in South Bend.Notre Dame (32-12, 6-0 in the Big East) cruised to an easy sweep of Syracuse (15-17, 1-3) at Ivy Field on Saturday, beating them 11-3 and 8-0. Each game was called in the fifth inning on the eight-run mercy rule.Monday against No. 18 Nebraska (30-12), the team could only muster one hit and fell to the Huskers, 1-0. Tuesday, the Irish were again outhit by Nebraska, but were able to muster enough offense to salvage a split by winning 2-0.”I wouldn’t say our bats went cold,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “[Nebraska’s first game starter] Peaches James came into that game averaging about 12 strikeouts a game and we only struck out three times. I think it was more a matter of us not making adjustments and attacking the ball.”Nicole Wicks, who has struggled at times throughout the season, was the team’s offensive leader in the sweep. She went 4-for-5 over the weekend and collected four RBI while scoring three runs.Meghan Ruthrauff continued to show her power stroke by smashing her ninth home run of the season in game two. The offensive prowess of the Irish didn’t shadow its pitching performance. Heather Booth started game one and allowed two earned runs and four hits over the five innings. Steffany Stenglein started game two, and allowed two hits in four innings before giving way to Carrie Wisen in the fifth.Booth and Stenglein continued to pitch well in the Nebraska series, but Brown was the victim of a fine performance by James, who outdueled Booth in game one by allowing only a single to Megan Ciolli.Stenglein was the starter in game two and pitched well before getting in trouble in the sixth inning after Notre Dame had taken a 2-0 lead.She loaded the bases with one out and was replaced by Wisen, who was able to work out of the jam for her first save of the season.”That’s kind of been Carrie’s role all season,” Gumpf said. “She came in a very difficult situation and really showed complete poise on the mound. You could just tell that she was going to get the job done.”Notre Dame was stymied again by a Nebraska starter in game two, this time with Summer Tobias keeping the Irish off the scoreboard. But a pair of Cornhusker errors late allowed Notre Dame to take the victory.Carissa Jaquish led off the sixth inning with a bloop single and Sara Schoonaert attempted to move her over to second on a sacrifice bunt. Jaquish was thrown out at second and Schoonaert reached on the fielder’s choice.Stephanie Brown followed with what appeared to be a harmless groundball to Tobias, but the Nebraska pitcher threw the ball into center field as she attempted to get Schoonaert out at second. The center fielder then attempted to throw Schoonaert out at third, but the ball sailed into the Cornhuskers’ dugout and the Irish got an automatic free base.Schoonaert crossed the plate with the free base advancement, and Brown moved over to third. Nicole deFau hit a sacrifice fly to score Brown and collect an insurance run for the Irish.”Nebraska is a very tough team and we knew both games would be close,” Gumpf said. “The pitchers all got it done in that series and it really just came down to the team that played the best defense.”The Irish return home to face Illinois-Chicago Thursday at 5 p.m.