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Women’s Softball: Irish pitch way to a 3-1 record in Invitational

Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, February 27, 2006

Notre Dame made an impressive turnaround this weekend, posting a 3-1 record en route to winning the Golden Panther Invitational at Florida International University.

The Irish saw the rise of a definite No. 2 starter in freshman Brittney Bargar. Bargar, who had pitched some in the Desert Classic in Las Vegas the previous weekend, flashed signs of brilliance this weekend, most notably in Notre Dame’s first game against Buffalo, a 1-0 win for the Irish.

Although the Bulls stymied Irish hitters, allowing only three hits and five walks, Bargar was dominant against Buffalo. The only run of the day came in the bottom of the third, with two runners on base and two outs, when Brittany Glynn faked a break for home on a dropped ball, sparking a pick-off attempt from Bulls catcher Lacy Schneider. Schneider’s throw was off the bag, and Glynn scored easily from third.

That one run would prove to be all that was needed for Bargar, who allowed only four hits and three walks against eight strikeouts in the complete game victory. In fact, after a double by Lauren Picciano in the first inning, no Buffalo runner made it to second base against Bargar.

The Irish also boasted the tournament’s MVP, pitcher Heather Booth. Booth won the two middle games of the tournament with an ERA of 0.58 and 19 strikeouts while surrendering only eight total hits. Booth, a two-time first team All-Big East pitcher, showed a return to form in Miami this weekend, most notably in her first start against the host team, FIU.

In a rain-shortened game that lasted only five innings, Booth was perfect in three of them, retiring FIU batters in order in the first (in which she struck out the side), third and fifth innings. While Booth was baffling opposing batters, the Irish offense gave her more than enough run support for the win. Despite having only one extra base hit – a double by second baseman Katie Laing – Notre Dame’s aggressive base running led to a 5-0 victory. The Irish played small ball to perfection, using five sacrifices, taking extra bases at the right time and working counts to their favor by striking out only twice.

The Irish continued winning on Saturday morning against Memphis 4-1, again featuring Booth’s arm and Notre Dame’s bats. Booth surrendered only one run on six hits while also striking out 10 in her second complete game victory of the tournament. The win also demonstrated Notre Dame’s ability to get runners on base and move them over when needed. Irish hitters capitalized on mistakes and created their own opportunities against the Tigers, using bunts, hit and runs, steals and errors to keep innings alive and put runners into scoring position.

The last game the Irish played was their only loss in Miami, falling 6-5 in a rematch against FIU. This was also the only game in which Irish pitching and fielding were not stellar, as Bargar allowed five runs – only two of which were earned – in three innings of work. The Irish opened scoring in the first with an RBI single from Laing, but the Golden Panthers responded in the second inning with a two-run double by third baseman Samantha Card. FIU added three unearned runs in the third against Bargar, all of which resulted from a fielding error she committed.

The Irish had a comeback rally in the fifth, pushing the score to 5-4 behind a solo home run by right fielder Stephanie Brown – who, along with Booth and shortstop Sara Schoonaert, were named to the all-tournament team – and an RBI single by catcher Malorie Lenn. But the rally ended two batters later, leaving the Irish one run short of the Golden Panthers.

The championship game of the tournament against either St. John’s or FIU was cancelled due to rain, and the Irish were named the tournament champions, improving their record to 5-4 on the season. The Irish hope to carry this victory into next weekend’s tournament at Tulsa, Okla.