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ND Softball: Irish open up new home field

Jared Jedick | Friday, April 11, 2008

Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Irish will look to open up newly constructed Melissa Cook Stadium in style with back-to-back double-headers against Big East foes Rutgers and Villanova this weekend.

The center of attention isn’t on any kinds of streaks or statistics for the Irish (24-10, 5-1 Big East), but instead on just playing well in their next game.

“We are not focused on the winning streak,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “All we are concerned about is beating these next two teams.

A point of motivation to win this weekend’s series will be playing in brand-new Melissa Cook Stadium. The well-drained field has a fully-equipped locker room and a team room boasting televisions and couches that will allow the teams to unwind before and after games.

“The girls got to see it for the first time [Thursday], and they just loved it,” Gumpf said.

Throwing out the first pitch will be Brian Boulac, the founder of the Irish softball program. Boulac was the first softball coach at Notre Dame and coached the stadium’s namesake, Melissa Cook, in the program’s formative years said Gumpf.

Rutgers (16-21, 2-6 Big East) is coming off an impressive three-game winning streak to take on the Irish Saturday for the opening double-header.

The first pitch in action at Melissa Cook Stadium will be hurled at noon by junior Brittney Bargar with the second game beginning at 2 p.m. and started by freshman Jody Valdivia.

The Scarlet Knights have recently shown some pop on offense, with junior shortstop Kate Valiente going 3-for-7 at the plate in a double-header against Princeton in which she hit a grand-slam and drove in seven RBI’s.

“Rutgers has very, very good hitters,” Gumpf said. “They do a great job and are very tough to get out.”

Villanova (14-14-1, 3-5 Big East) is also enjoying some hot hitting as of late, with a victory and a 9-9 tie that was called due to darkness in a double-header with Lehigh.

“If we want to be successful against Villanova we are going to have to limit our swings only to good pitches,” Gumpf said.

If their recent play is any guide, the Irish should have no trouble mustering up some offense.

Senior second baseman Katie Laing has been on fire as of late, earning Big East Player of the Week honors last week.

Also hot in the batter’s box is sophomore utility player Christine Lux, who had a phenomenal double-header against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.

Lux tied the team record for RBI in a single game held by former player Meagan Ruthrauff with seven in the opener. The impressive production included a three-run homer in the fourth inning.

Irish softball’s new home, Melissa Cook Stadium, will hold opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday before the doubleheader against Rutgers.