May 22, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Facing elimination and a Notre Dame team it had not beaten this season in two previous tries, No. 9 seed Northwestern dominated the Irish, 4-1, Sunday afternoon at the NCAA Ninth Regional at Ivy Field, forcing a rematch for the right to advance to the Super Regional.
Northwestern's overall record is now 41-16, while Notre Dame falls to 46-14. The win was the first of the season for the Wildcats over the Irish, who defeated NU during Saturday's Regional action and once during the regular season, both times by a single run.
Northwestern and Notre Dame now will turn right around and play one more time for the Ninth Region Championship, scheduled to begin at 2:51 p.m. CT.
Notre Dame wasted no time getting on the board in the first. Stephanie Brown led off with a double, then advanced to third on a sacrifice. Sophomore Eileen Canney (Paradise, Calif./Paradise) then fooled Megan Ciolli with a two-strike pitch, but her check-swing grounder was just slow enough to allow Brown to score on a fielder's choice and give the Irish a 1-0 lead after the first
Instead of waiting until the seventh to respond to ND's early scores as it did earlier in the Regional, Northwestern did so right away in the second. Junior Sheila McCorkle (Costa Mesa, Calif./Mater Dei) reached base after her infield pop fly was dropped when Sara Schoonaert crashed into Katie Laing trying to make the play.
McCorkle stole second, then came around to score when freshman Darcy Sengewald (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) dumped a single into center field, tying the score at one each.
Northwestern took the lead in the very next inning. Freshman Stephanie Churchwell (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) led off with a double over the head of the right fielder, then senior Erin Mobley (Santa Ana, Calif./Foothill) did her job, advancing the runner with a groundout.
Sophomore Garland Cooper
(Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) then put the ball on the ground to a charging Meagan Ruthrauff at first. Ruthrauff booted the ball off her glove, allowing Cooper to reach first and Churchwell to score to give the Wildcats a 2-1 advantage.
Northwestern's home run queen chimed in to lead off the fourth. Junior Kristen Amegin (Sacramento, Calif./Elk Grove) launched a 3-0 pitch over the left-field fence in a hurry, then sprinted around the bases with four fist pumps and an explosion from the `Cat backers in the stands. McCorkle then stepped into the batter's box and made it back-to-back jacks with a ball over the fence in nearly the same spot for a 4-1 Northwestern lead.
The home run was the 14th of the season for Amegin and the 25th of her career. It was her second career homer in the NCAA Tournament; she hit a walk-off blast in last season's NCAA Tucson Regional against South Carolina. McCorkle's homer was her fifth of the season.
The back-to-back home runs marked the third time this season NU has turned that trick. The other two occurrences came in a 14-2 win over Michigan State on April 30.
Following the home runs, Steffany Stenglein came in to replace Notre Dame starter Heather Booth.
Meanwhile, Canney was cruising. After the fielder's choice that scored a run in the first, she retired ten consecutive batters before hitting Mallorie Wisen with a pitch with two outs in the fourth. She did not allow the second hit until the sixth inning.
Following the rain delay, the game finished quickly with neither team never really threatening.
Sengewald was a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate for the Wildcats.
Canney completed a fantastic game, allowing just two hits and one run, while striking out four. She upped her record to 19-8 on the year, matching her win total from last season.
Booth took the loss for Notre Dame, falling to 23-8.