Softball: Valdivida leads way in shutout victories
Kelsey Manning | Friday, April 8, 2011
Outstanding pitching and sharp defense highlighted the day as the Irish topped Butler by allowing just eight hits and one run throughout their doubleheader Thursday.
Senior pitcher Jody Valdivia led the way in the 5-0 shutout, rebounding from a few slow pitching starts in previous games to match her career record of 14 strikeouts. Valdivia was able to get ahead of batters and took charge of the entire Bulldog lineup, including the school’s all-time home run leader junior first baseman Erin Falkenberry. The senior allowed just two hits and two walks in seven innings.
“The past couple of outings I have been focusing on just spinning the ball, working on executing pitches and hitting my locations,” Valdivia said. “My catcher gave me great feedback all day and we were able to get into a good rhythm and just went with it.”
Meanwhile the Irish offensive charge was led once again by senior Heather Johnson, who extended her hitting streak to 14 games and owned five of Notre Dame’s 16 hits on the day. Senior catcher Lex Clay also played an integral role from the plate, going two-for-five in the doubleheader with five RBI, including a three-run homer in the opening contest to score sophomore Amy Buntin and senior Brianna Jorgensborg. The Irish continue to focus on hitting in the clutch and not leaving runners on base as the season progresses.
“The team did a great job of playing our own game,” Valdivia said. “We got the momentum going our way and tried to keep it that way. We were able to get clutch hits and keep putting the pressure on [Butler’s] defense which caused them to make mistakes.”
The Bulldogs took their one and only lead of the day in the second contest when Butler junior Jessica Huey hit a two-out single in the top of the third inning. But the Irish were able to come right back in the bottom of the inning when sophomore Alexa Maldonado doubled, reached third on Clay’s sacrifice bunt, and crossed the plate as Johnson singled. Timely hits and Butler errors allowed Notre Dame to finish out the 6-1 victory in commanding fashion.
The pair of wins extended the Irish winning streak to seven games, a tally that bodes well for the team’s success moving forward.
“I feel like now that preseason is over and we are hitting conference play everyone has a good idea of where they are in terms of their own game,” Valdivia said. “Preseason gave us good goals to focus on and pointed out areas we fell short in that we have been working at improving. Our team is starting to hit its stride and we feel pretty confident moving forward into Big East.”
Big East play will resume for the Irish this weekend as the team travels to Syracuse for a three-game series.
“Syracuse has transitioned themselves into being a real competitive threat for Big East and are the reigning tournament champions,” Valdivia noted. “We didn’t have the opportunity to play them last year during regular season so we are excited to go compete with them this weekend and bring home some wins.”
The Irish look to prove themselves this weekend as they face Syracuse beginning Saturday at noon.