Sunday, April 27, 2008

Softball Splits With Notre Dame, Retains Playoff Hopes

Report based on CSTV’s Gametracker

Notre Dame, Ind.- In a matter of 79 minutes, the potent Notre Dame Fighting Irish docked Providence College back to conventional reality through a hastened 10-1 shellacking in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader at Melissa Cook Stadium. At the interim portion of the day, PC was 0-11 all time on this particular field.

But the refined Friars pounced on the resultant jumpstart to Game 2 (first pitch thrown at 1:44, a good 16 minutes ahead of the listed start time), conjuring a 4-0 lead on a set of doubles by Gina Rossi and Teresa Bertels and kneading that edge to an eventual 5-3 triumph.

With that, only one year and 12 days removed from halting their franchise-old futility against the Irish through a split at Raymond Field, PC extracted its first ever victory on the fabled Indiana campus, where in 2006 they were promptly abolished from their only appearance in the Big East quarterfinals.

Incidentally, Saturday’s resilience also propped up the Friars’ hopes for a return trip to the playoffs as they kept their .500 transcript (8-8) and grip on the eighth seed stable. They will seek to finally step up a few rungs in their Sunday visit to DePaul, who at 10-5 stood fourth in the conference midway through their Saturday series with Connecticut.

Nothing was stable about Saturday’s venture, though. Even as the Friars sculpted their early edge, the Irish nibbled at starter Jennifer Maccio from within, accepting four walks in the first three innings and barely stranding two runners in each of those frames.

After Bertels had guided Rossi and Justin Stratton home on a distant double to left center, Notre Dame hurler Jody Valdivia finally gave way to Brittney Bargar, who came into Saturday No. 2 in overall Big East pitching and #1 in terms of strikeouts with 188. In a practical fingersnap, the wound was compressed and the Irish finally hatched their run-scoring egg on Maccio in their half of the inning.

A two-out triple courtesy Katie Fleury brought Erin Marrone home before Sarah Smith plopped a soapy bunt that third baseman Katelyn Revens couldn’t handle, allowing Fleury to tap the dish and reduce matters to a 4-2 deficit.

By the time the Irish had again let two runners dissolve in the fifth (right after PC had stranded three in their half) Maccio had thrust the ball 88 times. She lasted merely four more in the sixth, eventually authorizing a single Brianna Jorgensborg before the Friars’ called upon their own ace, Danielle Bertollette.

Bertollette, who took the two-cheek slapper earlier in the day, started her second shift with a draining, seven-pitch walk to Fleury. The Irish proceeded to inch Jorgensborg all the way home on a pair of worthwhile sac grounders.

But Christy Becker drove home an insurance tally in the Friars’ half of the seventh, whacking a two-out, straightaway single far enough to let Revens complete the tour from second base, which she had wisely stolen after her leadoff single. (Revens expanded her league lead in the SB column to 25).

Bertollette needed to squeeze out 20 more tosses en route to her first save of the year, but ended up stamping it on Marronne’s full-count fly to Rossi out in left.

Game 1: Bargar explicitly out-aced Bertollette in the early fixture, wherein PC submitted to a mercy rule after a mere four-and-a-half innings.

Discounting to the Friars’ redressing Game 2 victory, four of the last five get-togethers between these two schools have not through the standard seven inning schema.

Bertollette (3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER) was uprooted in favor of Kathryn Sullivan upon Samantha Pittmann’s one-out error at second base which let Katie Laing hustle home from third and stationed Jorgensborg and Sarah Smith on first and second. Sullivan let Christine Lux into the equation through a five-pitch walk before Ashley Ellis leveled a grand slam over left field.

The Irish massacre strung its 10 runs on as many hits whereas the Friars spilled the bulk of their opportunities, affording only one run on seven hits and stranding five runners between the second and fifth innings.

In the second, with Notre Dame already up 3-0, Pittmann nailed a first-pitch, one-out single to push home Christy Becker and Gina Rossi –the lone Friar to muster two hits on winning hurler Brittney Bargar- to second. Both runners snuck into scoring position on Bertels’ sac bunt but saw their chance to knot the game zapped on Julie Fowler’s subsequent strikeout.

In the bottom of the third, the Irish stretched their edge to 5-1 only after Bertollette had singlehandedly retired her first two challengers, putting out both Laing and Lux on grounders. Linda Kohan –who had stolen home for her team’s third run in the opening frame- and later gave way to pinch runner Christin Farrell after Ellis (5 RBIs on the day) walked on four straight pitches. Designated hitter Beth Northway belted a distant double to bring both runners home.