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ND Softball: Squad heads to Valparaiso

Jared Jedick | Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Irish will travel to Valparaiso, Ind., to take on the Crusaders in their last non-conference game of the season on Tuesday after a convincing double-header sweep of Connecticut over the weekend.

The Irish (34-17-1 overall, 12-6 Big East) looked strong in their last home outings of the year, earning three wins over the weekend against conference foes, and will hope to ride that momentum through the last five games of the regular season.

Notre Dame senior outfielder Sarah Smith earned Big East player of the week honors on Monday for her impressive performance against Loyola-Chicago, Providence, and Connecticut. For the week, Smith posted four multi-hit games with two three-hit outings and has a .538 average over that span.

Smith went 3-for-4 with a run and RBI in the second win over Connecticut on Sunday.

She has hit safely in ten straight games with an overall batting average of .385 and has the best in-conference batting average with her .466 mark in the Big East.

The Irish will look to continue to ride the strong arm of junior Brittney Bargar, who now boasts a 26-10 record on the season. Bargar pitched 22.1 innings over the weekend and threw complete games in both halves of the Connecticut double-header.

Valparaiso (29-15, 11-4 Horizon) is quietly having one of its best seasons in its history, crushing school records left and right while putting themselves in very strong position to win the Horizon League crown.

In a series win over Youngstown State this weekend, the Crusaders topped their all-time single-season wins record with 29, including a program-best 11 at home.

Valparaiso senior pitcher Andrea Zappia earned a program-record eighteenth victory in a single season against Youngstown State on Sunday in a complete-game effort.

Senior catcher Shannon Robinson tied the career doubles record at Valparaiso and the Crusaders broke the team’s single-season record for RBI’s in one season.

Against the backdrop of this historic season for the Crusaders, the Irish will look to steal one away from their over-achieving Indiana rival and build some momentum to finish up strong in the Big East.

After the game against Valparaiso, the Irish will complete their regular-season schedule with double-headers against Big East foes Pittsburgh and Syracuse over the weekend.

Winning Big East games has been the primary focus for the Irish all year, according to head coach Deanna Gumpf, and the team is still in good position to challenge for the Big East crown. Their 12-6 Big East record is good for a tie with Louisville for third in the conference behind DePaul and South Florida.

The Big East tournament begins on May 8 in Louisville, Ky., and the Irish will be looking to solidify their seeding in the coming weeks.