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ND SOFTBALL: Win streak ends with doubleheader split

Justin Schuver | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

All good things must come to an end.

Notre Dame’s winning streak stalled at 19 games as the Irish (30-9) split a doubleheader against DePaul (28-13) Tuesday afternoon in Chicago.

The Irish won game one, 2-1, in eight innings, extending their winning streak to 19 before falling 7-4 in game two to the Blue Demons.

Senior Steffany Stenglein pitched her third straight start with at least 14 or more strikeouts, striking out 14 batters while allowing only one run and three hits in the eight-inning, complete-game victory in game one. Freshman Katie Laing continued her recent streak of clutch hitting by knocking in the first Notre Dame run of game one with a one-out double in the third inning.

But it was Kellie Middleton who had the biggest hit for the Irish, singling home pinch runner Nicole Wicks from second base with two outs and an 0-2 count.

“Kellie has really been stepping up lately in those two-out situations,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “She had fouled off several pitches in that at bat and finally got something she could handle. I’ve been looking for her to come through in the clutch, and she did that today.”

Stenglein pitched the bottom of the eighth inning for the victory, but went about it in an unorthodox way. The Irish elected to intentionally walk DePaul’s Saskia Roberson, whose lead off home run in the fourth inning was the only run the Blue Demons scored off Stenglein. DePaul’s next batter grounded out and the Blue Demons followed with a sacrifice grounder, moving Roberson into scoring position and bringing Linda Secka to the plate.

Secka had doubled earlier in the game, and after Stenglein fell behind her 2-0, Gumpf called for the second intentional walk of the inning.

“I know that you’re never supposed to walk the go ahead run, but those were the two hottest hitters on their team, and I thought that [Stenglein] was handling everyone else,” Gumpf said. “We decided to go with her strengths.”

With two outs and a 3-2 count on Katie Sheaks, Stenglein threw a perfect pitch on the inside corner to close out the game with her 14th strikeout.

But Notre Dame’s streak of 19 straight came to an end in game two. The Irish went ahead early in the third inning, with both Middleton and Sara Schoonaert scoring runs.

Irish starter Heather Booth could not hold the lead in the bottom of the frame, however, giving up four runs including a three-run home run to Jessica Evans with two outs.

Notre Dame gave up one run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth inning, and the Irish found themselves down 7-2 late in the game before attempting a comeback.

The Irish used a DePaul error in the sixth inning to cut into the Blue Demons’ lead, opening the inning with runners on second and third with no outs. But Notre Dame could only manage two RBI groundouts to cut the lead to three runs.

Gumpf said after the game that the team wasn’t so much disappointed to have its winning streak snapped, rather they were disappointed with their performance.

“The girls don’t focus on winning streaks or anything like that,” she said. “We played really badly in the second game, and that’s what they’re unhappy with, and it’s what I’m unhappy with as well.”

Notre Dame will have a chance to start a new winning streak Thursday as it faces Akron in a doubleheader at Ivy Field starting at 3 p.m.