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ND SOFTBALL: Win streak on the line at Depaul

Ryan Duffy | Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The last time the Irish lost, most of the student body was still recovering from St. Patrick’s Day.

After dismantling team after team on their way to 19 consecutive wins since March 19, Notre Dame now faces its biggest challenge since the beginning of the season when the Irish take on DePaul (27-12) in a doubleheader today in Chicago.

“DePaul is a very good team and a huge regional rival,” coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They’re well-coached and the kind of team that just makes things happen. I don’t expect this to be easy by any means. DePaul knows how to win.”

Fortunately, knowing how to win is something the Irish have shown a talent for recently as well. The 19-game win streak marks the second longest win streak since Gumpf took over and would become the second longest in school history if Notre Dame could take both games of the doubleheader.

“Wins like the ones we’ve been getting are always helpful,” Gumpf said.”The girls have a lot of confidence, which we need. They feel like they can come from behind and win when the going gets tough, and that’s very important for this team.”

Notre Dame will be led by its dominant starting pitching, featuring senior Steffany Stenglein.

Stenglein was named the Big East Pitcher of the Week on Monday after striking out 36 batters in 19.2 innings last week on her way to recording four victories and two complete-game shutouts.

Stenglein’s dominant week lowered her ERA to 1.29, and she has now compiled 177 strikeouts in 113.2 innings, a rate of almost 11 strikeouts per game.

Along with junior Heather Booth, the Irish pitching has been practically unhittable as of late.

“Steffany and Heather have gotten better and better as the season has progressed,” Gumpf said.

“They’re both pitching very well; they just need to stay solid and always keep us in the ballgame.”

With the pitching carrying the Irish, the offense has not produced spectacular stats, but plenty of clutch hits throughout the course of the win streak.

“I don’t think we’ve hit phenomenal[ly],” Gumpf said. “Our numbers aren’t incredible, but we’re taking care of business. We’re doing enough to make sure we’re winning, and in the big picture, that’s what we have to do.”

After today’s doubleheader, Notre Dame plays 12 consecutive home games to close out the season, making it all the more important to close out their last road trip of the season strongly.

“We’re a confident team right now,” Gumpf said. “This year we’re winning the tough games. It says a lot about the character of the team, and they’re going to need that coming down the stretch.”