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ND to Kick Off Big East play

Joe Meixell | Friday, March 28, 2008

After dispatching IUPUI with an 8-0 victory in its home opener Wednesday, Notre Dame (16-9) will hit the road again for its conference openers in a double header at DePaul Sunday.”This team is itching to play in the Big East and prove what Notre Dame softball is about this year,” junior pitcher Brittney Bargar said.The beginning of the conference season signals the opportunity for the Irish to live up to their expectations.”This conference season, I expect perfection, out of myself as well as this team,” Bargar said. “We have the talent this year, and the sky is the limit.”Thursday’s scheduled game against Illinois-Chicago was postponed and has not been rescheduled.The Blue Demons (19-9) currently sit at No. 24 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.The Irish met the Blue Demons three times last year, losing twice at DePaul in late April before exacting some revenge on their home field with an 8-2 victory in a game that advanced the Irish to the finals of the Big East tournament where they fell to Louisville. Those eight runs served as a stark contrast to the one run the Irish were able to muster in their first two games against DePaul in 2007.In that semifinal game, sophomore Christine Lux knocked a three-run home run in the top of the third to go along with a two-RBI double by junior Linda Kohan to lead the way for the Irish offense, while Bargar limited the Blue Demons to just two earned runs on three hits while striking out six.While DePaul made an early exit from the Big East tournament at the hands of the Irish last year, it managed to rebound from that setback and post a 6-2 record in the Women’s College World Series. They were eliminated by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arizona. The Blue Demons ended up No. 6 in the final USA Today/NFCA poll of 2007.This weekend, DePaul is coming off of a special kind of warm-up to the Big East season. On Wednesday, the Blue Demons played an exhibition game against the USA National Team as part of its Bound for Beijing Tour.DePaul suffered a 23-0 loss at the hands of the soon-to-be Olympians, as starter Lindsay Dean gave up 13 runs on three home runs and four doubles in the opening frame. While the result of the exhibition game may not look pretty, playing against some of the best hitters, pitchers, and fielders in the world can only help with preparation for the Big East season.The most recent regular season game for the Blue Demons was a hard fought 1-0 loss to San Diego St. – a game that wasn’t decided until the eighth inning.Conversely, Notre Dame’s win over IUPUI was efficient, convincing, and over after only five innings. Freshman pitcher Jody Valdivia earned her third shutout of the season, while senior Katie Laing and freshman Katie Fleury each posted two-RBI performances.DePaul will offer a challenge for the Irish, but Bargar and her teammates are ready for Sunday.”[DePaul] has some great hitters and a great pitching staff,” she said. “But I expect to win both games.”The Irish and Blue Demons will square off twice Sunday with the first game set to begin at 12 p.m. at Cacciatore Stadium in Chicago.