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ND Softball: Irish sweep Big East foes

Michael Bryan | Monday, April 2, 2007

When Notre Dame began playing back home at Ivy Field March 22, it was 9-12 and coming off a three-game losing streak. Since then, the Irish have played 10 straight games at home – all wins – most recently sweeping doubleheaders against Pittsburgh and Syracuse this weekend.

After a two-hour rain delay Saturday, the Irish (19-12, 8-0 Big East) extended their dominance over Pittsburgh (14-21, 2-3) with back-to-back 4-0 wins.

The first game remained scoreless until the third inning, when Irish catcher Gessica Hufnagle singled home left fielder Beth Northway to put Notre Dame on the board. Shortstop Katie Laing then drove Hufnagle in to put the Irish up 2-0.

Notre Dame put up another two runs in the fourth inning, with center fielder Stephanie Brown’s two-run single. Brown had three hits on the game, her fifth three-hit performance of the year.

Irish hurler Brittney Bargar continued her sparkling pitching at home, throwing a complete-game shutout against the Panthers. Bargar, a sophomore, struck out eight and allowed only two hits in the win, her 11th of the season.

The Irish enjoyed similar success in the circle in the second game behind senior Kenya Fuemmeler. Fuemmeler threw a three-hit, complete-game shutout, striking out seven and walking only one for her sixth win of the season.

Offensively, the Irish manufactured a run in the bottom of the first when a Laing sacrifice fly drove home Brown. Notre Dame would not score again until the fifth, when Brown scored on a Laing fielder’s choice. Laing then scored all the way from first on third baseman Heather Johnson’s double.

The Irish added an insurance run in the sixth with an RBI from right fielder Ashley Ellis for the 4-0 win.

Notre Dame faced off against Syracuse (10-24, 3-5) Sunday and continued its pitching dominance.

In the first game, the Irish posted their third shutout in a row with a 7-0 victory over the Orange. Bargar pitched her second shutout in as many days, throwing one-hit ball for six innings while striking out seven.

Notre Dame seized the lead early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. Northway doubled to drive in two runs, and first baseman Christine Lux singled her home before Syracuse could stop the bleeding.

Hufnagle singled home another run in the second, and a Brown double drove in two runs in the third to give the Irish a commanding 6-0 lead. Notre Dame grabbed an insurance run in the sixth when Laing doubled home Brown from third.

In the second game of the doubleheader, both teams remained scoreless for the first two innings. The Notre Dame offense exploded in the third, putting six runs on the board to break the game wide open. Johnson hit a bases-clearing double to drive home three runs, and Lux drove two in with her first career home run.

Lux also doubled home two runs in the fourth, and a Johnson groundout scored Notre Dame’s ninth run.

The Orange finally got on the scoreboard with two runs in the fifth, but never threatened the Irish lead. Hufnagle singled in the bottom of the inning to give the Irish their 10th and final run.

Brown led the Irish offensively on the weekend, going 12-for-15 on the weekend. Bargar and Fuemmeler’s efforts gave Notre Dame a 0.50 ERA in the four games.

Pitching has fueled the success at home, where the Irish have allowed only six runs over the 10 games. Five of the wins in the streak have come in the form of shutouts.