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ND Softball: Irish prepare for pair of mid-week contests

Jared Jedick | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Notre Dame hopes to enjoy some sunny skies – and play some good softball – when it hosts Mid-American Conference opponents Ball State (20-16) and Toledo (6-10) Tuesday and Wednesday. The Irish will attempt to build on their momentum from a double-header split against No. 17 DePaul on Sunday.

Notre Dame (17-10) starting pitchers Brittney Bargar, a junior, and freshman Jody Valdivia have been outstanding for the Irish thus far. Their latest strong performance came in a 2-0 Valdivia shutout Sunday.

“Jody [Valdivia] really moved the ball around well against DePaul,” coach Deanna Gumpf said. “With the misting and cold conditions, she was really impressive.”

Valdivia was named the Big East pitcher of the week on Monday after notching two shutouts in 10 and 2/3 innings of work. She limited IUPUI to three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in the home opener Wednesday before handing DePaul its first regular season loss of the season.

“She did a great job this week with her two shutouts,” Gumpf said. “She just gets better every time she goes out onto the mound.”

This is the third time in seven weeks that an Irish pitcher nabbed Big East pitcher of the week honors. Bargar has earned the honor twice this season, and held DePaul to two runs on four hits Sunday.

“Brittney [Bargar] pitched a really great game, as well, in the first half of the double-header,” Gumpf said. “But she had trouble getting enough support from her defense.”

The defense has been one of the few areas of concern for the Irish of late, an area that Gumpf has addressed with her squad.

“Our defense really does need to improve,” Gumpf said. “What I believe the problem to be is that we are not keeping everything simple. Sometimes I feel like we are rushing things and we just need to slow down and watch the ball into the glove.”

The Irish will first face a Ball State team they bested 3-0 at home last year. Gumpf is not taking the contest lightly, as she knows Ball State has strong pitching and good hitting characteristic of the MAC.

“When we played them last year they had very good hitters,” Gumpf said. “And this year they have added an outstanding transfer pitcher, junior Tiffany Garofano, so it is going to be very tough.”

Gumpf said the key to beating the Cardinals is Notre Dame’s pitching.

“To beat Ball State we are really going to have to locate our pitches and control their hitters,” Gumpf said.

On the offensive side, Gumpf would like to see the team maintain its strong showings of the past couple weeks and keep focusing on the fundamentals.

“Offensively, we really need to keep it simple,” Gumpf said. “I want to see us do the little things that are necessary to score runs.”

On Wednesday, the Irish will take the field against Toledo, another offensive-minded MAC team.

“Toledo is another great hitting team, and we just need to find a way to control their hitters,” Gumpf said. “I believe Jody [Valdivia] will continue to do a great job.”

Gumpf also wants to see the team be patient at the plate against the Rockets.

“I want us to wait for and swing at good pitches,” Gumpf said.

Both games will be at 5 p.m. on Ivy Field.