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ND Softball: Irish take two of three at Louisville

Molly Sammon | Monday, April 19, 2010

The Irish came out on top after winning two games and losing one in a three game away series against No. 24 Louisville this weekend.

“Anytime you go down to Louisville, it’s going to be a battle,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “They’re not at easy team to beat so we came out alive.”

On Saturday, the No. 24 Irish won their first contest of the day 5-0 as junior pitcher Jody Valdivia led the Irish with a one-hitter and her 16th shutout of the season.

Junior Brianna Jorgensborg’s two-run home run in the fifth inning and junior Katie Fleury’s two RBIs in the third inning were both crucial offensive plays that led the Irish to victory.

“[Jorgensborg] broke into the lineup when Erin Marrone got injured, and she’s been hitting shots,” Gumpf said. “Losing your leading hitter is brutal so we’ve been looking for someone who could step up, and I believe that Brianna has done that 100 percent. If you look at what she’s done since Erin has been down, she’s been phenomenal.”

Valdivia suppressed the Cardinals’ offense to one single, the only Louisville hit of the game.

“Jody is the one we’ve had to depend on all year. That’s her job, and she wants that job,” Gumpf said. “I expect her to win, and I expect her to find a way to win in every game.”

The Irish witnessed their nine game win streak come to an end as the Cardinals handed them their first conference loss since the 2009 regular season in their second game Saturday, topping Notre Dame 4-1.

Freshman pitchers Brittany O’Donnell and Jackie Bowe each pitched for the Irish. O’Donnell started and threw three innings for three earned runs, and Bowe relieved and earned the other two Cardinals’ runs.

“[O’Donnell and Bowe] are getting their feet wet,” Gumpf said. “The freshman are here to keep us in the ball game, so we needed to hit.”

Senior Heather Johnson was the only Irish player to touch home plate, as her solo home run in the sixth inning stopped the Cardinals from shutting out the Irish.

The difficulty the Irish had at the plate can be attributed to the talent of lefty Cardinal pitcher Teri Collins.

“I think [Collins] did a good job of keeping us off-balance,” Gumpf said. “She spun it well and kept the ball away from us.”

The Irish redeemed themselves Sunday on the second day of play with a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals to take the weekend series.

“Really, it came down to one inning,” Gumpf said. “When you lead off an inning with a triple, you know big things are going to happen.”

Scoreless until the fourth inning, the game was decided by senior Christine Lux’s three run home run that brought in Johnson and Fleury.

“It felt like a weight was lifted off everyone’s shoulders,” Gumpf said. “When you get a three run lead with Jody on the mound, you’re going to win.”

Despite the one Cardinal run scored in the bottom of the seventh, Valdivia suppressed the threat of a hopeful Cardinal offensive rally and earned her 27th win of the season.

Chances the Irish will play the Cardinals again in the Big East tournament are good as they are the top two teams and the only nationally ranked  teams in the conference.

“Nothing changes for practice,” Gumpf said. “We’ll just attack improvement, and we’re going to focus on some more situational stuff this week. Our goal is to keep getting better everyday.”

Next, the Irish will play Valparaiso at Notre Dame’s Melissa Cook Stadium Wednesday at 4 p.m.