May 19, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. - Left fielder Jessica Hejna went two-for-four with a home run and fellow junior Jennifer Davis pitched a complete game, but the UC Santa Barbara softball team was unable to rally past Notre Dame and fell 5-2 in an NCAA Tournament Evanston Regional showdown Friday at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
The Gauchos - making their second ever postseason appearance - fell to 24-21 overall and will face either host school Northwestern or Southern Illinois on Saturday in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m. CDT/11:30 a.m. PDT. The Fighting Irish improved to 41-19.
"We weren't able to come up with the big play early on," UCSB head coach Kristy Schroeder said. "Notre Dame came through in the third inning and we never really recovered. We hit the ball well later in the game, but we waited too long to attack offensively."
The game started out as a pitching duel between Davis and Notre Dame starter Heather Booth, with each team stranding a runner in both the first and second innings.
Davis had a no-hitter working through two innings - retiring six of the first eight batters she faced - until right fielder Stephanie Mola drew a lead-off walk in the top of the third. Centerfielder Stephanie Brown followed with the Irish's first hit of the game, a bunt single. After sophomore Sara Schoonaert singled just over Gaucho third baseman Shelby Hensler's glove to load the bases, third baseman Meagan Ruthrauff blasted a one-out grand slam that caromed off the adjacent Welsh-Ryan Arena and gave ND an early 4-0 lead. Notre Dame then flied out twice to end the inning.
The Irish upped their advantage to 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth after loading the bases with nobody out for the second straight inning. Designated player Erin Glasco led off the inning with a single up the middle before Gessica Hufnagle and Mola followed with a pair bunt singles. With one out, Sarah Smith - pinch running for Glasco - scored on a deep sacrifice fly by Schoonaert.
Santa Barbara scored its only runs of the game in the top of the fifth when Hejna cracked a two-out solo home run over the left field fence, her first of the season. Junior center fielder Kendra Singley followed with a double to left and then came home on a single by junior shortstop Brittany Putich, who advanced to third on the throw home. Sophomore catcher Ericka Hansen then drew a walk, but was later ruled off the bag for the inning's final out with freshman first baseman Tiffany Wright - the potential tying run - at the plate.
The Gauchos also had runners reach base in the sixth and seventh innings but couldn't trim their deficit any further. Freshman second baseman Christine Ramos had UCSB's only other hit after the fifth inning.
Davis settled down and retired seven consecutive batters from the fourth through sixth innings - allowing just one hit the rest of the way - before falling to 18-16 on the year. The Whittier, Calif., native, who has started each of the past eight games for UCSB, struck out six and walked one. At the plate Davis notched a sixth-inning double, while Singley enjoyed a multi-hit game, going two-for-four with a pair of doubles of her own.
Like Santa Barbara, the Irish totaled seven hits, including a two-for-three performance from Hufnagle. Booth fanned nine batters over seven innings and upped her record to 26-10.
Santa Barbara looks for its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory when it squares off with the fourth-seeded Wildcats or the Sulukis on Saturday.
"The girls know they can play with anybody here," Schroeder commented when asked if the Gauchos match-up better with Northwestern or Southern Illinois. "If we limit the big plays and keep the ball in the park, it doesn't matter who we play."