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ND Softball: Offensive fireworks power ND

Chris Masoud | Thursday, April 2, 2009

Every softball coach knows that falling victim to the doldrums of the middle of the season can mean the difference between making the playoffs and watching from the outside. But apparently the Irish couldn’t care less, as they put on a hit parade en route to an 11-4 victory over Northern Illinois on Wednesday.

The Irish (18-11) started off slow, scoring only two runs through the first three frames. But the lack of offense didn’t last long, as the Irish picked up the pace in the middle innings to tally nine unanswered runs against a beleaguered Husky pitching staff.

“We usually struggle with slow pitchers,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “But what was really important was when their pitchers missed, they took advantage.”

Starting on the bump for Notre Dame, Brittney Bargar dominated Northern Illinois (9-18) through three innings, giving up only one run on a pair of Irish errors. But the Husky hitters adjusted in the fourth, picking up three runs on a pair of singles and a bases-clearing double.

Facing a 4-2 deficit, the Irish suddenly turned on the power switch in the bottom half of the fourth to put on a display for the fans watching at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Senior Linda Kohan began the surge by belting a home run down the right field line with one out. Dani Miller reached base by way of a walk, and junior Heather Johnson followed by crushing a ball to left field for a 2 RBI home run.

But the Irish weren’t finished yet, as sophomore Katie Fleury laced a home run to left field with two outs, the third big fly of the inning. Fleury’s smash marked only the third time in program history the Irish hit three home runs in a single frame.

Notre Dame’s dominance at the plate continued on the field, as sophomore Jody Valdivia came in relief of Bargar and shut the door in the face of the Huskies’ offense. Valdivia threw three innings of no-hit ball to secure the victory for the Irish.

“She had good stuff and it was really moving,” Gumpf said. “She kept the other team guessing.”

The outpour of Irish power continued into the sixth as Notre Dame put up five runs of insurance for Valdivia. Junior Christine Lux jacked a three-run home run that just cleared the right field fence with one out in the frame. Johnson drove in Miller for a second time with a single to left before Lux’s knock cleared the bags. Fleury doubled to left and scored on a throwing error later in the inning.

Wednesday’s victory gives the Irish a much needed win against a non-conference opponent, a feat they accomplished in stunning fashion. Notre Dame recorded a season-high 30 total bases and 6 stolen bags.

The Irish return to Big East action when they host Pittsburgh for a doubleheader on Saturday as they make their push for a playoff berth.