Notre Dame softball team claws past Kelly

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Notre Dame's Jessica Menz connects for a hit during the second inning Monday.

BENTON, Mo. -- The Notre Dame at Kelly softball game was a tale of three chapters Monday afternoon.

The Bulldogs came out firing, Kelly battled back and Notre Dame delivered a knockout blow.

The Bulldogs (22-0) used a big lead to stave off an impressive Hawks (11-8) comeback in an 11-6 win.

"They're a fairly young team," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. "A lot of teams are going to run off and hide especially the way we hit the ball the first two innings. But they're Kelly. Their program's here for a reason, and they're going to stay in there and fight until the end. That's what they did. They clawed and scratched and made a game out of it, and we were lucky to pull out with a win today."

Notre Dame looked to be on its way to an easy victory during the first two innings.

Notre Dame pitcher Katie Bond jumps over Kelly baserunner Sydney Vinyard as Vinyard scores during the fifth inning Monday in Benton, Mo. (Laura Simon)

The Bulldogs put runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning thanks to back-to-back Kelly errors.

And Notre Dame made the Hawks pay.

Senior third baseman Jessica Menz drove the first pitch she saw into the left-center field gap, and senior catcher Savanna Ayers followed with a double down the left-field line to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

"We were just trying to get on top like we always do," Menz said. "And just score runs."

Notre Dame added to its lead in the second.

Notre Dame baserunner Hali Rendleman rounds second base as the Kelly defense returns the ball to the infield during the second inning Monday in Benton, Mo. (Laura Simon)

Senior center fielder Hali Rendleman hit a two-out 0-2 pitch to right field for a two RBI triple, and Menz hit another double three batters later to drive in two more to make it 8-0.

"Take away those three runs in the first inning we gave them on errors, and I think that second inning would have been a completely different ballgame," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said. "The momentum may not have been there, and I don't know if they would have scored those five runs. I definitely think it would have been a lot closer ballgame."

The Hawks quickly wrote their own chapter after the second inning.

Kelly used a hit batsman and an error to put runners on first and second with one out in the third.

A single by Sydney Vinyard, a wild pitch, a double by Jade Rampley and a single by Kristy Brucker cut the Bulldogs' lead in half.

Notre Dame's Brandi Glastetter catches a pop fly during the first inning.

"This is the best-fought game I've seen them play," Ratledge said. "And I needed to see that and so did they, just to know that they still got it in them when you're down 8-0 not to give up."

Added Menz: "They hit the ball well. They just kept finding holes, and our defense couldn't pick it up."

Kelly trimmed its deficit again in the fifth.

A leadoff single by Morgan LeDure and a walk by Vinyard set the table.

LeDure came around to score on a Brucker double, and Vinyard raced home on a wild pitch to cut Notre Dame's lead to 8-6.

"I said, 'Ladies you have nothing to lose getting in that box and swinging and working on fundamentals,'" Ratledge said. "All those girls worked on hitting. It's exactly what I told them. It's the same thing. It's just like batting practice -- this is another pitcher coming in to throw you batting practice. Get in there and drive and keep your head in and focus and be disciplined. It basically comes down to they had nothing to lose."

Notre Dame's offense sputtered, while the Hawks came back.

Brucker, Kelly's freshman ace, faced 15 Bulldogs over the first two innings. She faced only 14 and held Notre Dame to two hits over the next four innings.

"She threw a good seven innings," Ratledge said about Brucker. "Her and my catcher worked really well together. The girls came back and made a couple adjustments in that first inning after we had some errors. The girls knew they just had to do it. You can't continue to make errors like you've been making."

Added Graviett: "I felt like we were getting underneath the ball. They started making those plays. They didn't give us those openings whether walks or errors. We were lifting the ball a little too much and not staying on top and looking for the line drive and ground balls and putting the pressure on with the speed. But we came back in the seventh and went back to that philosophy. We probably coasted a little bit, but you got to give credit to Kelly."

The Bulldogs finally regained their composure in the seventh.

Summer Burger led off with an infield single and scored on a Menz single and a throwing error. Ayers then blasted a double to drive in Menz, and Katie Bond followed with a double to center to drive in Ayers and push the lead to 11-6.

"We've been hitting well all season, and it's a good feeling to know if they come back that we can still come back and score more runs," Ayers said. "It takes a lot of pressure off of our defense. It's always nice to get some extra runs, especially for Katie, so she feels comfortable out there pitching."

Kelly mustered two singles in the seventh but couldn't push across any runs.

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WP -- Katie Bond. LP -- Kristy Brucker. 3B -- Hali Rendleman (ND). 2B -- Jessica Menz 2 (ND), Savanna Ayers 2 (ND), Brandi Glastetter (ND), Bond (ND), Jade Rampley (K), Brucker (K). Multiple Hits: Notre Dame, Menz 3-4, Ayers 2-4, Glastetter 2-4, Summer Burger 2-4, Bond 2-4. Kelly; Rampley 2-4, Brucker 3-4. Records: Notre Dame 22-0, Kelly 11-8.

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