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ND Softball: Pitching in blood, Bargar steps into leading Irish role

Michael Bryan | Thursday, April 26, 2007

In a sport where its athletes aren’t known for their toughness, Notre Dame pitcher Brittney Bargar stands out.

The sophomore workhorse, who leads the Irish in innings pitched and complete games, once took a hard line drive off her face in a high school game. When her concerned coach and teammates rushed out to help Bargar, she calmly jumped back up into the pitching circle and faced the next batter.

Pitching runs deep in the veins of the Bargar family – Brittney’s father Lance played baseball and pitched on the collegiate level as well.

“I started playing softball because of my dad,” Bargar said. “He would always tell me stories about his games, and it made me interested.”

Bargar picked up softball at age eight, at first playing with her father and then joining a recreational league. She showed talent on the rubber from an early age and made an immediate impact as a freshman at Corona High School in California. Named team co-MVP as a freshman, Bargar was an integral part of a very successful Corona team.

“My high school career was amazing,” Bargar said. “We were very talented, and I got to play with a bunch of girls I loved and became best friends with.”

The Corona team and Bargar had their best season in 2005, in her senior season. Ranked as high as third nationally, Corona reached the finals of the California Interscholastic Federation tournament. As a senior Bargar garnered several individual awards, including Riverside County player of the year. For her high school career, Bargar posted a sparkling ERA of 0.39, and tallied a 66-18 record.

Despite Bargar’s dominance in high school, the hurler said she hardly thought about her future in softball until scholarship offers started coming in.

“I didn’t really realize what my future held,” Bargar said. “I just focused on working really hard and trying to become one of the best.”

Notre Dame was Bargar’s last scheduled college visit, and it made the biggest impact on the high school star.

“I loved all the girls here and fit in well with them,” Bargar said. “I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like Notre Dame, it’s an amazing place.”

Bargar was a key addition to the Irish pitching staff in 2006, pitching second in the rotation and finishing with a 15-9 record. Bargar was named to the Big East honor roll that season and had an ERA of 2.92. Highlighting her rookie season was an eight-inning no-hitter against Big East rival Connecticut in April 2006, the first in Irish history.

Assuming her role as the ace of the pitching staff this season, Bargar has continued to elevate her performance and succeed. A power pitcher who has always been able to rely on her velocity, Bargar has become more effective this season by adding more pitches to her arsenal.

“I’ve learned a couple new pitches that have made me successful this year, including a drop and a changeup,” Bargar said. “As well as physically, I’ve developed mentally and become much more mentally tough.”

Bargar leads Notre Dame and the Big East with 16 wins and 176 innings pitched and is second in the conference with 174 strikeouts. She has pitched 19 complete games for the Irish, all while holding opponents to a .233 batting average.

Although only a sophomore, Bargar has evolved into a leader on Notre Dame.

“As a pitcher, we set the tone of the game,” Bargar said. “I have to come out from the first inning on and have a positive start and lead by example.”

Bargar will start for the third-place Irish in a crucial doubleheader Sunday against Big East leader No. 17 DePaul.