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Softball: Irish defeat Valpo, 6-2

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, April 28, 2006

Notre Dame rebounded from its 7-4 home loss to Purdue Wednesday with a 6-2 victory against Valparaiso Thursday behind a three-run rally in the third.

A single by shortstop Sara Schoonaert and a fielder’s choice by Linda Kohan set up Notre Dame’s first run of the third against the Crusaders (18-26, 5-11 Mid-Continent Conference), as Meagan Ruthrauff’s single to right tied the game at two. Second baseman Katie Laing followed with a double to right, driving in two more Irish runs for a 4-2 lead.

Notre Dame had fallen behind early in the game after a two-run Valparaiso second. Irish starting pitcher Heather Booth gave up two runs in the inning – only one of which was earned – on a double and a single, but worked out of the jam by getting Crusaders center fielder Karen Korb to foul out to third base. Booth pitched a four-hit gem other than the second, striking out three and allowing only four hits in the game.

“Heather did have one inning when they got some hits off of her, but she got back in control and buckled down,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said.

The third inning was proof of the intensity that the Irish have used all season to win games – something that Gumpf has told her team is necessary to its success.

“The hitters are really confident right now,” Gumpf said. “We keep swinging at the good pitches and just do what we need to do to win.”

Notre Dame added a run in each of the next two innings, the highlight of which was in the top of the fourth when left fielder Gessica Hufnagle blasted the first homerun of her career over the left field fence. The Irish capped off their scoring against the Crusaders in the fifth inning. Kohan led off the inning with a hard-hit ground ball up the middle for a single. Ruthrauff followed with a deep double to right field to drive in Kohan from first.

Gumpf said the Irish played well against the Crusaders, especially after the second inning, as Booth allowed only one hit in the last five innings of the game.

The Irish will resume Big East play this weekend with doubleheaders against Big East newcomers South Florida and Louisville Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The doubleheaders will be two of the toughest tests for Notre Dame this season, as the Bulls and the Cardinals are second and third, respectively, in the Big East behind the Irish.

Notre Dame and USF each have only one Big East loss on the season, and the match-up will be crucial in deciding the top seeds in the Big East tournament.

But the Irish aren’t worrying about the Big East yet, knowing they still have tough competition ahead of them

“I’m not looking past Saturday,” Gumpf said. “We have to take care of South Florida, and when we do that we have to take care of Louisville.

“This is going to be a big weekend for us.”