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ND Softball: Irish ready for South Florida

Molly Sammon | Friday, April 9, 2010

After Wednesday’s doubleheader against Bowling Green was postponed because of weather conditions, the Irish are ready to grace the dirt again with hopes of continuing their perfect record at home in this weekend’s three-game series against South Florida.

The No. 23 Irish (26-6, 5-0 Big East) beat conference opponent South Florida (18-15, 3-0) twice last season, but each game was close as the Bulls offense was able to make both of the games interesting.

“They are scrappy and fast,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They are a team that makes things happen.”

Though the Irish were successful last season, this year the Bulls have a new player on the mound, freshman Lindsey Richardson, who was recently named the Big East Pitcher of the Week.

The Irish have three huge advantages going into the series. They are leading the NCAA in batting average and are ranked second in the nation defensively. Also, they have won each of their conference games so far this season.

In practice, the Irish have been preparing for the series by working on both personal aspects and team aspects of the game.

“We have had some good practices, some days focusing on individual fundamentals, sometimes on team situations,” Gumpf said.

The Irish also emphasize the benefits of practicing real game situations to avoid any surprises the Bulls might bring with them to South Bend.

“Lately in practice we have been trying to work on the things that could come up in a game and really make or break us in that situation,” assistant coach Kris Ganeff said. “We have been focusing on little fundamental details that we might take for granted at this point in the season.”

The Irish suffered their biggest loss of the season last week when junior utility fielder Erin Marrone tore her ACL, taking her out of the lineup for the duration of the season.

“This was a terrible blow to the entire team for several reasons,” Ganeff said. “First Erin is a tremendous player and was having a great year offensively and defensively for our team, but more importantly, Erin is such a good person that it hurts to see her go through this horrible experience.”

This weekend gives Notre Dame the opportunity to learn not only about the playing styles and strategies of South Florida, but also the team’s progress towards the central goals of the season. Ganeff said finishing first in the conference is at the top of the list.

“We try to make everyday the same so we can continue to approach each game as another step towards our goals of winning the Big East Conference and proceeding on to the post season,” Ganeff said.

The first two games will be Saturday at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium. The Irish wrap up the series Sunday with game three at noon.