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ND Softball: Streaking Irish travel to Western Michigan

Meaghan Veselik | Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coming off an 8-1 Spring Break trip to California, the Irish are back on the road today to face the Broncos of Western Michigan.

Notre Dame (16-5) ended its road trip Sunday with a 3-0 defeat over Purdue in a non-conference match at the Long Beach Invite to cap a successful trip. They face a Broncos team struggling to find the win column.

“It was a great stretch for us over the past 10 days on our Spring Break road trip to Southern California,” Irish assistant coach Kris Ganeff said.  “The team stepped it up in all areas including offense, defense and in the circle for us. We had some nice wins over good programs and really created a sense of confidence for this team.”

Junior pitcher Jody Valdivia (12-2) picked up her 11th straight win as she pitched a one-hitter, complete with nine strikeouts. Seven of those came in the first three innings.

Valdivia will lead the effort from the circle against Western Michigan (5-7). Utility fielder Lexi Jager, a solid hitter with power to all fields, paces the Broncos with a .421 batting average to go along with three home runs and two triples.

Notre Dame’s recent success has not gone unnoticed. Valdivia was named Big East Pitcher of the Week while junior outfielder Sadie Pitzenberger earned Player of the Week honors, giving the Irish the sweep of the weekly awards, the first-ever sweep by a pair of teammates.

“Pitching has been really good,” Ganeff said. “Jody Valdivia has been doing a great job leading the team in the circle. She has really taken to being the one to get it done for us.  Our freshmen have really been getting better with each outing. They are learning how to compete at this level and are doing a great job.”

Pitzenberger hit .476 while safely making it to base in all six games she played in over break. She has proved herself to be a strong leadoff hitter for the Irish and has a team-best hitting streak of 16 games. Her performance as a leadoff hitter has included three triples, a double, a hit-by-pitch and one groundout.

However, Pitzenberger has not been Notre Dame’s only powerful presence at the plate.

“Offensively we have continued to be consistent at the plate,” Ganeff said. “We are getting runners on base and coming up with the key hits that are scoring runs.”

The Notre Dame defense has been holding up their end of the deal, as shown by their overall record and defeat of some of the top national teams, including Ohio State. Overall, the Irish have maintained a high level of play.

“Defensively we have been playing really well and creating minimal errors on defense,” Ganeff said. “This is an area we will continue to enhance every single day. We need to continue to be aggressive and smooth on defense so we can ensure that we don’t just give the opponent an opportunity to score.”

Notre Dame looks to continue its winning streak when it faces Western Michigan at 5 p.m. in Kalamazoo.