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Softball: Irish split doubleheader against Boilermakers

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Notre Dame split its Tuesday afternoon series with Purdue, losing the first game 1-0 in a pitchers’ duel that was decided in the Boilermakers’ last at-bat before returning the favor in the late game, 3-1.

Purdue 1, Notre Dame 0

Junior starting pitcher Brittney Bargar (22-10) put in a strong performance for the Irish (30-16, 9-5 Big East) in the loss, doing what it took to get the Boilermakers (31-17) out until the final inning. Bargar pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing five hits, four strikeouts, two walks and one earned run.

“She had a really solid game,” assistant coach Lizzy Lemire said. “She kept the ball down well and a had a great game overall controlling the hitters.”

In the second and sixth innings Bargar worked out of jams to keep the score knotted at 0-0.

The second inning saw runners on second and third bases with two outs before Bargar was able to induce a key groundball.

An error committed by freshman shortstop Katie Fleury in the sixth allowed Boilermaker runners to take position on second and third with only one out. Bargar responded by earning an inning ending double play on the lineout of Purdue junior infielder Katie Mitchell and a tag-out to end the inning.

The bats stayed silent for the Irish all game, with the only hits coming from senior leftfielder Sarah Smith, senior second baseman Katie Laing, junior designated hitter Beth Northway, and freshman catcher Erin Marrone.

“The mental approach of our hitters wasn’t that great for the off-speed pitches we were facing,” Lemire said. “We were trying to hit the pitcher’s strength instead of waiting for good pitches.”

Things fell apart for the Irish in the seventh, when the Boilermakers were able to string some offense together. Purdue sophomore catcher Jenna Alexander walked to open up the inning and was advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore outfielder Ashley Barr. A single from junior outfielder Christina Trauger into center field scored pinch-runner sophomore second baseman Amy Butcher from second to end the game.

“Bargar’s only downfall was the lead-off walk in the seventh,” Lemire said.

Notre Dame 3, Purdue 1

“It feels great to get a win,” Lemire said.

The second game against the Boilermakers started off with some much needed offense, when junior third baseman Linda Kohan came through once again for the Irish when they needed it most with an RBI in the first inning, scoring Fleury who had singled and stolen second base.

“We have relied on Kohan to come up in the clutch for us all year,” Lemire said. “And she came through for us again today.”

The Irish added to the lead in the top of the third when Smith put herself into scoring position by singling and stealing second base. Then Laing came to the plate and was able to get an RBI single to plate Smith.

Freshman Jody Valdivia (8-6) earned the start for the Irish, and responded to the impressive performance of Bargar with a strong outing of her own. Valdivia went 4.2 innings with four hits, an earned run, two walks, and four strikeouts.

“Valdivia had a great game and kept her pitch-count down,” Lemire said. “She only had a couple walks and we’re really proud of her.”

The Boilermakers brought the score back to within one with a solo homerun from junior shortstop Candace Curtis in the third inning. That would be their only run of the game, however, as Bargar came on in relief in the fifth.

Adding an insurance run in the seventh inning was an RBI single from Fleury that brought junior pinch-hitter Stephanie Mola home. That score would hold up, giving the Irish the split.

Lemire would like to see the team pick up the intensity as the team nears the Big East and NCAA tournaments.

“Our biggest challenge is to play with the mentality that it is tournament time,” Lemire said. “We need to settle into our own and pick up the intensity.”

Thursday’s game against Loyola-Chicago that begins at 5 p.m. is fireworks night at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish will look to start getting into postseason mode in the double-header.