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ND Softball: Big East champs now face NCAA Regionals

Molly Sammon | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Big East champion Irish head to Ann Arbor this weekend to compete in NCAA Regionals to face No. 5 seed Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Cleveland State in group play.

Notre Dame defeated DePaul this past weekend 1-0 to win the conference tournament, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Senior pitcher Brittney Bargar held the Blue Demons scoreless in the championship game and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

During the course of the season, the team excelled defensively largely in part to having two stellar starting pitchers, Bargar and sophomore Jody Valdivia.

“As a ball player I have completely changed,” Bargar said. “Coming in as a freshman I was a pitcher that relied on throwing the ball past the hitters with a screw ball and a curve. As a senior I now rely on hitting my spots and my movement on my pitches.”

A recent honor for an individual player was given to Valdivia, the most current recipient of the Big East Conference Pitcher of the Week. Valdivia’s 1.94 E.R.A. and 28 strike-outs from the weekend helped the Irish beat three different Big East Conference teams, Providence, Georgetown and Louisville during the last week of the current season.

“I think we had a great season offensively,” senior Linda Kohan said. “We made the adjustments we needed to and hit for power.”

Freshman third baseman, Dani Miller made a name for herself offensively this season, with three grand slams, 10 homeruns, and a .342 batting average that consistently yielded hits. Junior infielder Christine Lux also proved this season to be an important offensive asset to the Irish. Lux hit 15 homeruns and led the team in RBIs, accumulating 50 during the regular season.

“We have hit more home-runs then any other Notre Dame softball team and we have also learned how to feed off of each other,” senior pitcher Christine Farrell said.

The improvements that the Irish have made this season in comparison to last season can be traced back to a set of talented underclassmen ballplayers.

“I think all underclassmen play different roles and all of them have a chance to impact this team,” Bargar said. “When [the seniors] leave, look for Katie Fleury, Christine Lux, Heather Johnson and Sadie Pitzenberger to have huge impacts as leaders.”

The girls saw the bulk of their major competition in the earlier games of the season. They faced many difficult opponents from other conferences, such as top-ranked Alabama and other top 10 teams in the NCAA, including UCLA, Stanford and Oklahoma.

“Getting past some of the losses we took in preseason was our biggest challenge,” senior outfielder Beth Northway said. “We expected more of ourselves, and I think we approached it believing that we were better than those games indicated and have spent the rest of the season working to prove ourselves as the team we are.”

The Irish will compete in the double-elimination regional beginning today against Cleveland State.