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No. 8 Wildcats roll into Ivy Field

Michael Bryan | Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Notre Dame will look for its first win over a ranked opponent this season today, facing off against No. 8 Northwestern at Ivy Field.

The Irish (24-18) are coming off four straight losses over the weekend against Big East foes Louisville and South Florida. They will try to bounce back against the Wildcats (36-10) at 7 p.m. Notre Dame is 6-1 against non-conference opponents at home this year, dropping only a 2-1 game against Eastern Michigan.

Northwestern brings a powerful offense and dominant pitching into South Bend, batting .297 as a team with a 1.77 ERA. Sophomore Tammy Williams and seniors Katie Logan and Garland Cooper have given opposing pitchers fits all season with their combination of power and speed.

Williams leads the team with a .465 batting average and 11 homers on the season, while Logan is close behind batting .380. Cooper has been one of the premiere power hitters in the nation this season, hitting 18 home runs with 54 RBIs while batting .370.

The Wildcat pitchers have been just as dominant as their hitters this year, with pitchers Lauren Delaney and Eileen Canney each giving up less than two runs per game. Delaney, a freshman, sports a 16-2 record with 15 complete games. Canney, a senior, is 20-8 with 20 complete games and 236 strikeouts in 169 innings.

Despite the success and talent of Northwestern, Irish sophomore pitcher Brittney Bargar said the team is still very confident.

“We have been doing a good job putting the ball in play and taking advantage of opponents weaknesses,” Bargar said. “We have been playing amazing defense that has really limited our opponents.”

The game likely will carry extra significance for the Irish, whose season has been ended by the Wildcats the past two years in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame will have to get its hitting back on track to have a chance against Northwestern – in the four Irish losses over the weekend, the team scored just four runs.

“A huge key to our success is scoring first, and making things happen,” Bargar said. “Taking the momentum right off the bat and staying ahead are really important.”

Much of the team’s success this season has also been based on the performance of Bargar and fellow pitcher Kenya Fuemmeler. Bargar leads the team with a 16-9 record and a 1.98 ERA, while Fuemmeler is 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA.

Notre Dame is 13-1 in games in which the Irish have scored first, and 20-0 when leading through the first three innings.

The game is the second to last at home for the Irish, who will play their last home game against Illinois-Chicago Wednesday.