Bulldogs earn return to final four

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Notre Dame had just one hit but edged Sullivan 2-0.

KIRKWOOD, Mo. -- Notre Dame softball coach Jeff Graviett said prior to Saturday's Class 3 state quarterfinal game against Sullivan that the Bulldogs would go as far as their speed and defense would take them.

Stuck in a pitchers duel at the Kirkwood Athletic Association, Notre Dame managed to score two runs without getting a hit through the infield and held on for a 2-0 win.

"When you have a pitcher like that -- at the least that's the best we've seen all year -- you have to put the ball in play and put pressure on them," Graviett said.

Notre Dame improved to 28-2 and will play Timberland (21-7) on Friday in its second straight trip to the state semifinals in Columbia, Mo.

Notre Dame's hitters had little answer for Sullivan (26-4) pitcher Meghan Bailey. Bailey, who coming into the game sported a 0.36 ERA with 288 strikeouts, held the Bulldogs in check with nine strikeouts through the first five innings.

The only three baserunners for Notre Dame through five innings came on a pair of walks and an error. Notre Dame even tried to sacrifice with top hitter Kristain Burger in the fourth to get something going.

"We spent a lot of time trying to lay the bunt down [in practice]," Graviett said. "We decided as coaches that was our best opportunity."

The Bulldogs finally got one of their bunts to work with two outs in the sixth, as freshman Erika Reinagel reached with a bunt and a throwing error, which allowed her to take second base. Burger followed with a grounder to the third, but a bad throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. Reinagel never stopped, scoring without a play at the plate.

Graviett said that is a play they practice on regularly.

"I think that's a great opportunity to steal a run when there's a bang-bang play at first if you get your girls to buy into that," he said.

Added Reinagel: "I was ready for that."

Notre Dame added an insurance run in the seventh off another Sullivan error. Bailey Reutzel broke up the no-hitter with a bunt single, and she scored all the way from first when the catcher's throw sailed into right field.

Reutzel said she was just trying to advance into scoring position to help the team add some insurance runs as she rounded first.

"Mainly I was just trying to get as far as I could," she said. "I knew it would be good to score as many runs as we could."

Before the Bulldogs used their speed to take control of the game, their defense which kept them in it.

Sullivan had a runner on second with one out in the fifth inning when Brooke Brandt knocked a single into right-center. Reinagel ranged to her right, field the ball and fired a strike to catcher Reutzel to gun down Ashley Sifford at the plate. Samantha Juergens followed with a groundout to end the inning.

"I was pretty confident, but I just threw it because I knew she was coming home," Reinagel said. "I'd done that before so I knew what I was going to do."

Added Graviett: "That was huge. The way she [Bailey] was throwing the ball, you get down and that's what they count on."

With the lead, Notre Dame starter Beth Schnurbusch threw her best two innings of the game to nail down the victory. Facing the Eagles' Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the sixth, Schnurbusch got a popout and two strikeouts. Sullivan managed a single in the seventh, but Schnurbusch got a pair of popouts to end the game.

Schnurbusch (19-0) allowed four hits, walked three and struck out four for the win.

"I knew I was going to have to step it up so we could hold them," Schnurbusch said.

Schnurbusch has become the staff ace this year after giving way to Miranda Schlosser for the stretch run last season.

"It's a little more exciting because I'm involved in it, but last year was pretty exciting," Schnurbusch said. "I'm just happy for the team that we all made it."

Bailey finished with 11 strikeouts, two walks and one hit allowed for Sullivan.


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WP -- Beth Schnurbusch, 19-0. LP -- Meghan Bailey. Records -- Notre Dame, 28-2; Sullivan 26-4.

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