May 20, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - A fierce mid-game rally was not enough for the Notre Dame softball team as its season came to a close after an 8-3 loss to 13th-seeded Arizona in front of 1,723 fans Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium. With its second loss of the NCAA Tucson Softball Regionals, the Irish were eliminated from the postseason showdown and wrapped up the season with an overall record of 40-16.
Chloe Saganowich led Notre Dame with a 2-for-3 effort at the dish that included a double and a two-run homer.
Arizona's first nine hits were singles and four of its next five were solo home runs. Each of Arizona's starters recorded at least one hit. Five Wildcats posted multi-hit efforts.
Notre Dame fell behind after the second stanza, 4-0, but cut the Wildcats' lead to 4-3 after the fourth frame. Arizona responded with four home runs over the next three innings.
The 13th-seeded Wildcats (38-17) improved to 55-4 in first-round games held in Tucson and have advanced out of 16 of the 17 NCAA Regionals they have hosted.
The Irish finished second in the BIG EAST Conference regular season standings and advanced to the final game of the league tournament before falling to Louisville in extra innings. The squad posted a 17-game winning streak as part of a late-season run before dropping three of its last five affairs.
Notre Dame clinched its fourth straight 40-win season - and 14th in program history - with a convincing 8-4 win Saturday evening against North Dakota State.
Laura Winter (29-11) fanned the first two batters in the first and gave up a two-out single to Brigette Del Ponte, her fifth hit in as many at-bats against the Irish.
Kelsey Thornton got on base in the bottom half with Notre Dame's first hit of the contest.
Four two-out runs in the second put Notre Dame in what seemed to be an insurmountable hole.
Jessica Spigner faced a full count and was issued a two-out walk by Winter. Kristen Arriola and Chelsea Suitos singled to produce Arizona's first run and Karissa Buchanan bumped an infield single to load the bases.
Hallie Wilson placed a two-RBI single into center to give Arizona a 3-0 lead. Del Ponte's second hit of the contest - and the fifth straight Wildcat single - scored Arizona's fourth run.
Lini Koria tacked on a sixth single to load the bags and Winter got out of the jam when Shelby Pendley flew out to center.
Saganowich poked a leadoff double down the rightfield line to christen the bottom half of the third. Shelby Babcock (20-9) put runners on the corners when Jenna Simon punched a single to left. Simon swiped second and Saganowich scored on Maldonado's sacrifice fly.
Thornton reached base on a bunt to Babcock as the pitcher looked to third to hold Simon before throwing late to first.
Simon was called out on a banger at the plate and Dani Miller flew out to center to end the scoring threat.
Arizona added a pair of fruitless singles in the fourth and Notre Dame stepped up to make its move in the bottom half.
Following a controversial Wildcat double play during which Emilee Koerner was hit by the second baseman's throw to first in an effort to relieve Katey Haus who had nearly reached the bag, Kasey O'Connor singled to center and Chloe Saganowich arched a two-run homer down the leftfield line.
Pendley and Chelsea Goodacre posted back-to-back dingers to start the fifth, giving the Wildcats a 6-3 cushion.
Goodacre would homer again in the seventh and Spigner followed with a solo bomb to center for a couple more Wildcat insurance runs.
Babcock failed to strikeout an Irish batter until a one-out fanning of Thornton in the fifth and her second came one batter later when Amy Buntin swung through a third strike.
A one-out double from Koerner was Notre Dame's only hit in the sixth.
Winter gave up eight earned runs and fanned a pair as Babcock scattered seven hits.