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ND Softball: Squad to defend eight-game streak

Laura Myers | Friday, April 3, 2009

Notre Dame will look to continue its hot streak this weekend against a pair of Big East opponents.

The Irish (18-11, 4-1 Big East), will host a doubleheader Saturday against Pittsburgh and a second doubleheader Sunday against Seton Hall.

Notre Dame is currently second in the Big East behind defending champions DePaul.

The Panthers (14-15, 2-6) have been struggling of late, losing their last six games, all Big East contests. They now sit 13th of the 16 Big East teams.

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said she does not think that Pittsburgh’s troubles will have an effect on their play.

“[Pittsburgh] always plays well against us,” she said. “In my mind, Pitt’s going to play their best game of the year against us.”

The Pirates (14-14-1, 4-4) are 12th in the conference, only one step above Pittsburgh. They have a difficult weekend ahead, as they face DePaul Saturday before coming to South Bend.

Pirates shortstop Brittany Schilizzi was named to the Big East Honor Roll for the second time Monday. She leads the team with four home runs and 23 RBIs.

Gumpf said the bottom teams in the Big East still pose a significant threat.

“Every year the Big East gets better and better,” she said. “Any day, any time, teams like Seton Hall will come out with everything they’ve got and they can beat you.”

After an 11-4 win Wednesday over Northern Illinois, the Irish hold an eight-game win streak.

“You always want to play your best,” Gumpf said. “If we play well, the wins will keep coming.

The Irish also have an 11-game streak in which at least one player has hit a home run.

The surge of power hitting has helped Notre Dame’s recent success, as the Irish have won 10 of their last 11 games.

“We are becoming more comfortable in the box,” Gumpf said. “I attribute the home runs to the players being comfortable and attacking the pitches.”

The Irish are also enjoying more success defensively. The team struggled with errors early in the season and lost several games due to unearned runs.

In their win streak, though, the Irish have committed just nine errors that resulted in six unearned runs – a vast improvement.

Senior pitcher Brittany Bargar will start the first game of each doubleheader.

Bargar (12-6) continues to show her experience on the mound, holding a 1.75 earned run average with 88 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched.

Sophomore pitcher Jody Valdivia will start the second game on each day.

Valdivia (6-5) has been lights-out in her past few appearances for the Irish and has lowered her ERA from over four to 2.85.

The games come in the middle of a nine-game Irish homestand. The squad will also play DePaul and Valparaiso this week before hitting the road.

The first pitch against Pittsburgh is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday with the second game following right after.

The first game against Seton Hall will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday and the second will follow.