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No. 1 Alabama awaits ND in season opener

Laura Myers | Friday, February 13, 2009

The Irish certainly aren’t easing in to the 2009 season.

Notre Dame will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. today to take part in the Bama Bash. In their first game, the Irish will face No. 1 Alabama.

The Tide (4-0) participated in the South Alabama Invitational Feb. 6-8. They swept their opponents on the bat of freshman Cassandra Reilly-Boccia, who hit .667 with six RBIs in her first four games in a college uniform.

The Irish will play Alabama again on Saturday, as well as East Carolina (3-1). They finish up against Wisconsin (0-4) on Sunday.

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said she hopes to come away with some wins in order to build momentum for the rest of the season.

“We want to become a better team each game we play,” she said.

Senior pitcher Brittney Bargar will lead the Irish rotation at the Bash. In 2008, Bargar won 30 games and earned all-conference and all-region honors.

Bargar is one of 14 monogram winners returning for Notre Dame, who lost only two seniors from last year’s squad.

“The approach of our veterans is solid,” Gumpf said. “They are businesslike and understand what they need to do to win.”

Gumpf said that although there are many returning players, the lineup will not look the same.

“We look much different,” she said. “There are major changes if you look at our line-up at the end of the year last year.”

These changes include the additions of junior infielder Heather Johnson and sophomore utility player Sadie Pitzenberger, both of whom were injured last season, as well as junior catcher Alexia Clay, who transferred from Tennessee and was forced to sit out last season.

The Irish have also added four freshmen to the mix.

They will get a trial by fire this weekend. After Alabama things don’t slow down. East Carolina hosted an invitational last weekend, winning three of four games. Sophomore pitcher Toni Paisley had two wins and a save for the Pirates, earning the honor of Conference USA Pitcher of the week.

The Badgers have not been as successful so far. They fell in all four of their contests at the Cathedral City Kickoff in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend.

The Bama Bash begins a series of warm-weather invitationals for the Irish, who will not play in South Bend until a two-game series against Toledo on March 18.

“We do enjoy the weather, but the reality of the early season tournaments is to win ball games and become the best team we can be,” Gumpf said.

The Irish kick off the season today at 5 p.m.