Rapture Strikes In Ann Arbor For Irish Softball

Sadie Pitzenberger

May 21, 2011

Game 1: Box Score | Box Score Get Acrobat Reader
Game 2: Box Score | Box Score Get Acrobat Reader

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A five-run lead in the top of the sixth was not enough for Notre Dame as second-ranked Michigan used six runs in the bottom half of the frame Saturday during an NCAA Softball Ann Arbor Regional contest at Alumni Field. Backed against the ropes, the Wolverines trailed 8-3 before grinding out their final six runs on six hits for the comeback win, 9-8.

Michigan (53-5), the tournament's 10th overall seeded squad and top in the Ann Arbor Regional, moves on to face Kentucky in the regional final on Sunday.

Second-seeded Notre Dame ended its season with a 46-11 mark two weeks after winning the BIG EAST Conference regular season title.

The first elimination game of afternoon saw Notre Dame blank Western Michigan, 4-0.

Fourth-seeded Western Michigan (25-30) was triumphant in the regular season meeting between the two teams and snapped Notre Dame's 21-game home winning streak.

The Irish have now won 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Broncos.

-Game 1-

Notre Dame's first batter of the game - Alexa Maldonado - tripled to right-center and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Heather Johnson.

That run would hold up to prove to be the game-winner.

Another leadoff extra-base hit for the Irish came in the second when Erin Marrone doubled to left-center. She moved to third on Dani Miller's sacrifice bunt and would not score.

Courtney Rousseau doubled to start the bottom of the second and was one of two Broncos in scoring position when Laura Winter (25-4) fanned a pair to end the threat.

Sadie Pitzenberger doubled in the third, Katie Fleury singled and the Broncos held strong by leaving two more Irish runners stranded.

Western Michigan loaded the bases and could not deliver in the third despite a career-high fourth walk issued by Winter.

Meredith Whitney (17-5) walked the bases loaded in the fourth for Heather Johnson, who came a few feet away from a grand slam before centerfielder Jennifer Tschetter made the third out with a snag at the wall.

Whitney scattered seven Irish hits and gave up three earned runs while walking four. Kayla Houston tossed the final 1.1 innings and gave up an unearned tally.

Three two-out fifth-inning singles to right by the Broncos went for naught when Kayla Houston fouled out to Alexia Clay.

After Western Michigan left the bases loaded for a second time, Brianna Jorgensborg whistled the first pitch she saw over the fence in center to give Notre Dame a 2-0 cushion.

Two batters later, Maldonado laid down a drag bunt and mounted her horse to score on Clay's two-out double.

Amy Buntin dropped an RBI single to add in another score during the seventh for the Irish.

Winter went 5.0 innings and fanned four with O'Donnell earning the save after giving up one hit in the final pair of stanzas.

-Game 2-

Shortly after Winter retired Michigan's fourth and fifth batters on strikes with two runners in scoring position, Jorgensborg roped a two-RBI single in the top of the second to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead Jorgensborg cashed in on earlier singles by Pitzenberger and Fleury.

Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead against the Wolverines in the 2010 season finale before Michigan rattled off 11 unanswered scores to end the season for the Irish.

Dorian Shaw singled home a run in the bottom of the third and Big Ten Player of the Year Amanda Chidester was walked by O'Donnell to load the bases.

Ashley Lane, who hit a grand slam earlier in the day against Kentucky, kept the scoring drive alive as she singled in two more runs to give Michigan a 3-2 edge.

Fleury added a single in the fourth after Pitzenberger struck out for the first time on the season. In fact, Pitzenberger's last strikeout came when facing Jordan Taylor (31-4) during the 2010 NCAA Ann Arbor Regional.

Miller belted a two-run shot that narrowly cleared the fence in left to boost Notre Dame back ahead, 4-3.

The fifth for Notre Dame started when Amy Buntin singled to right. Buntin moved all the way to third on Maldonado's sacrifice bunt, with Maldonado later stealing second. Buntin added another run on Taylor's wild pitch. Soon after, Pitzenberger was issued a walk for the first time this season, her first in 108 at-bats dating back to 2010.

Michigan put its first two batters on base in the bottom of the fifth, though with no one away Fleury made a stellar snag at short and tossed it to Johnson at third just in time to make the force out. Fleury caught a line drive for the second out and Pitzenberger made an over-the-shoulder grab in deep right to close the door on the Wolverines.

The fifth Irish run scored with two outs came when Jorgensborg jaunted from second on Maldonado's infield grounder as Notre Dame doubled up the Wolverines, 6-3.

Notre Dame took advantage of a walk and error in the sixth to plate three unearned runs. Johnson drove in Maldonado with a single up the middle for her first hit of the NCAA Regional.

Taylor allowed a season-high seven runs in Michigan's loss to Kentucky and eclipsed that total against the Irish.

Then came the rapture.

Marley Powers knocked a leadoff double to ignite things for Michigan in the bottom of the sixth. Powers was joined on base by two more Wolverines and an infield base hit by Bree Evans made it a four-run game at 8-4. Another infield single by Lyndsay Doyle cut the lead to three.

O'Donnell did her job by limiting Michigan to groundballs and gave way for Jody Valdivia (10-5) with no outs in the sixth. Valdivia walked in Dorian Shaw and a sacrifice fly and RBI single later knotted the score at 8-8.

Powers knocked in the go-ahead run by popping an RBI single to left which was one of six Michigan hits in the stanza.

Not going down without a fight, Fleury doubled to the wall to start the top of the seventh for her third hit of the night. Marrone was successful with a sacrifice bunt to move Fleury to third. Two outs were on the board when Jorgensborg was issued an intentional walk. Buntin's grounder forced the third out at second to end the game.

Jordan gave up eight runs - four earned - with nine strikeouts in the win. The loss went Valdivia who gave up one earned run on two hits in the sixth.

O'Donnell was good for 2.2 innings and issued three walks with the Wolverines getting the better of her with six hits and five earned runs.

Winter lasted the first 2.1 frames and gave up three hits and three earned runs.



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