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Softball: Irish beat Falcons 1-0 in 11 innings

Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, March 30, 2006

Notre Dame catcher Mallorie Lenn’s timing could not have been better.

Her two-out double in the bottom of the 11th gave the Irish their only run of the game, as she drove in freshman Alexandra Kotcheff from first to give the Irish (14-10) a 1-0 win over Bowling Green (17-10) Wednesday.

Notre Dame made two quick outs before Kotcheff landed a dying quail just between the infielders and outfielders. That hit set up Lenn’s game-winning RBI double.

Lenn’s late inning heroics drove in the game-winning run for Notre Dame, but it was starting pitcher Heather Booth’s performance in the circle that provided the Irish with energy throughout the game.

Booth pitched all eleven innings, struck out five and gave up three hits. She was perfect through 4.1 innings until Falcons designated hitter Wendy Sheehan hit a fourth inning bloop single.

“Heather pitched great today,” Notre Dame coach Deanna Gumpf said. “She led the team on and off the field and kept the momentum our way.”

Booth worked all her pitches effectively against Bowling Green hitters, using a combination of changeups and breaking balls.

The first scoring threat from either team came in the top of the seventh when the Falcons had runners at the corners with one out. Booth worked her way out of the jam by striking out the next two batters.

Notre Dame rallied in the seventh, loading the bases with only one out before back-to-back groundouts to third ended the inning and sent the game to extra-innings.

Booth showed her dominance over Bowling Green hitters in the four extra innings, Gumpf said.

The senior surrendered only one hit in the extra frames – a single that second baseman Megan McPherson tried to stretch into a double before being tagged out in a rundown. The other base runners allowed by Booth after the seventh all failed to reach second base, as two were gunned down by Mallorie Lenn in attempts to steal and a third was forced out on a fielder’s choice to second base.

“We definitely had our ups and downs, but we kept playing good softball,” Booth said. “The box score won’t show it, but we had a lot of good at bats and the defense played phenomenally.”

Notre Dame threatened to score again in the ninth with a leadoff double by Stephanie Brown. Kotcheff followed her with what appeared to be the game winning hit, as the throw from Bowling Green left fielder Allison Vallas got past third baseman Gina Rango, allowing Brown to cross the plate.

But the third base umpire reversed the call as Brown was called with player interference.

Booth worked quickly in the 11th, keeping the game a scoreless tie before Lenn’s game winner in the bottom half.

Gumpf said Notre Dame’s late-inning success was the result of hard playing throughout the game.

“We had to keep the intensity high if we were going to win this game against one of the best Bowling Green teams I’ve seen,” Gumpf said. “We know how bad we can be without our intensity, and they know they have to stay focused.”

The 11-inning contest marked the longest win of the season for Notre Dame and the longest ever for the team in Gumpf’s five years as Irish coach.

Notre Dame begins its Big East schedule Saturday at 4 p.m. against Connecticut on Ivy Field.

“After an emotional win like this one, I think we are more than ready to go into the Big East and kick some butt,” Booth said.