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Softball: Irish win three on road trip

Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, April 10, 2006

Notre Dame bounced back after dropping the first game in a Saturday doubleheader to Syracuse 2-1 with three straight wins – a 7-5 10-inning win at Syracuse and a sweep of the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-0 and 14-4) Sunday.

The Irish (21-12, 5-1 in the Big East) started the weekend off strong against the Orange (20-15, 8-2 in the Big East), but failed to come out with a win.

Syracuse left fielder Tonye McCorkle singled down the left-field line with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. Designated player Cassie Morales scored from third as the go-ahead run in the 2-1 Syracuse win.

Despite the score, the Irish still outplayed Syracuse in the eyes of Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf.

“In our one loss, we definitely played well,” Gumpf said. “We out-hit and out-pitched them, but the intensity just wasn’t there.”

Intensity has been one of the focal points for the Irish this season, and it definitely showed in the nightcap against Syracuse. Notre Dame pinch hitter Carissa Jaquish’s one-out, two-run shot to right center in the top of the tenth inning drove in the winning runs in Notre Dame’s 7-5 win against Syracuse.

Notre Dame’s bats were key in the team’ second victory of the weekend. The Irish lit up Orange pitchers for a dozen hits, including home runs by Jaquish and senior third baseman Meagan Ruthrauff.

The pitching duty for the game was split between the two Irish aces – senior Heather Booth and freshman Brittney Bargar. Bargar started for Notre Dame and struggled through the first five innings, surrendering four runs on 11 hits.

Booth entered the game in the sixth and pitched five stellar innings of relief, allowing only two hits and one run.

Booth’s performance in relief was crucial to the Notre Dame win, as the Irish failed to muster offense until the Jaquish home run.

For Booth, the difference between the two Syracuse games was not the team’s intensity, but rather its nerves.

“We came out in the first Syracuse game a little anxious, but we were a lot more disciplined in the second game,” Booth said.

Notre Dame played its second doubleheader of the weekend in Pittsburgh Sunday, sweeping both games in decisive fashion as its bats came to life against the Panthers (24-17, 7-3).

Notre Dame dominated the Panthers on offense and defense in game one, winning 7-0 behind a seven-inning shutout by Booth and a home run by Ruthrauff, her second in two games.

Booth shut down the entire Panthers lineup, allowing only five hits in a complete game – all singles – while striking out eleven. But unlike in the Syracuse doubleheader, her performance was backed with plenty of run support.

Behind Ruthrauff’s home run and a two-RBI day for senior shortstop Sara Schoonaert, the Irish were able to notch up seven runs against Panthers starting pitcher Meghan Bostick.

Easily the biggest game of the day for the Irish came in the second contest against Pittsburgh, a 14-4 Notre Dame victory led by a record-breaking day by Ruthrauff.

Ruthrauff broke the Notre Dame records for home runs and RBI in a game in the second game against Pittsburgh, blasting three home runs – including a grand slam in the seventh – and seven total RBI. The Irish as a whole also tied the team record for hits in a game with 21.

Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf was most proud of her team in this game, praising especially her dominant offense.

“We hit the ball really well out there against Pittsburgh in the second game,” Gumpf said. “Ruthrauff was on fire this weekend, and it really showed in that game.”

The Irish began their barrage of runs in the first inning with four runs, including Ruthrauff’s first dinger. Notre Dame piled on insurance runs throughout the game, up until the seventh with Ruthrauff’s grand slam.

“My swing was intact out there today, and I was just seeing the ball really well,” Ruthrauff said about her record-breaking day. “The whole team was on a roll right from the start.”

The three wins over the weekend boosted Notre Dame’s confidence in Big East play for the rest of the season. With confidence in their bats and arms, the Irish are ready to continue playing – and winning – in the Big East.

“I we can keep playing well and pitching well, we can win the rest of our games this year,” Gumpf said. “We just have to keep hitting the ball like we have been.”