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ND?Softball: Bargar has two wins in sweep

Chris Masoud | Monday, April 27, 2009

There are two kinds of teams in Division I softball, those that finish the season playing their best softball of the year and those that are running on empty. After winning eight consecutive Big East contests and 11 of their last 12, the Irish are clearly one of the former and they head into postseason play with plenty left in the tank.

Notre Dame (34-14, 15-3 Big East) completed a sweep of Syracuse Sunday by scores of 4-0 and 6-3, moving to second overall in the Big East with only five games to go. The Orange (28-18, 11-9) were simply overpowered by the surging Irish, who did not disappoint a packed crowd of 782 fans at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Solid defense and exceptional pitching from senior Brittney Bargar (20-9) highlighted Notre Dame’s shutout in game one. Bargar surrendered only four hits across seven innings.

The Irish benefited early from the unselfish play and timely hitting of senior second baseman Linda Kohan and junior first baseman Christine Lux, who instigated a two-run rally in the first to give the Irish a lead they would not give up.

Senior designated hitter Beth Northway got things started in the bottom of the frame with a leadoff single, raising her team-leading batting average to .367. Kohan followed up with a sacrifice bunt to move Northway into scoring position, and Lux sent an RBI double down the right field line to plate the game’s first run.

Freshman Dani Miller, who saw her 20-game consecutive hitting streak snapped against North Dakota State last week, grounded a chopper to third that was misplayed by Syracuse’s Hallie Gibbs, allowing Lux to round third and score.

With an Orange runner in scoring position in the third, sophomore right fielder Erin Marrone came up with a gem to keep the shutout intact, flagging a deep liner to right field with an over-the-shoulder grab.

Kohan added an insurance run in the bottom half of the third, belting a solo home run off the scoreboard to give the Irish a three-run advantage as they cruised to a game one victory.

The back end of the doubleheader was a much closer affair, as the Irish needed some late-inning heroics to pull off the sweep.

A leadoff double in the fourth by Lux was wasted by the Irish, as she was left stranded in scoring position. But when Lux came back to the plate in the fifth with two runners on and two outs, she would not be denied.

With a full count, Lux roped a standup triple down the right field line to pick up her second and third RBI of the day. Miller followed with a single to right field on the first pitch, scoring Lux and giving the Irish a 3-1 lead.

The dangerous Orange bats came alive in the top of the sixth, as Gibbs homered to left in the top of the sixth. Gaby Torzillie doubled in the tying run past the outstretched glove of freshman center fielder Alexa Maldonado later in the inning, shifting the momentum back to Syracuse.

But the Irish refused to go down at home without a fight. Kohan lined a single down the right field line in the bottom of the frame to plate senior Christine Farrell. Northway scored later on a Syracuse error, and junior third baseman Heather Johnson’s fourth sacrifice fly of the season put the Irish up by three.

Sophomore pitcher Jody Valdivia started the game from the circle, giving up three runs on four hits with two strikeouts. Bargar stepped in to throw two shutout innings in game two, finishing with nine scoreless innings on the day and lowering her ERA to 1.61 on the season, good enough for second in the conference.

The Irish will look to continue their hot hitting as they hit the road for a three-game road trip that will begin at Providence on Thursday.