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ND Softball: Irish use final inning rally to defeat Broncos

Megan Finneran | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Under the lights of Melissa Cook Stadium, the Irish scored all five of their runs in the final inning to earn a 5-3 victory over Western Michigan in their home opener.

Junior catcher Amy Buntin capped the seventh-inning rally by Notre Dame (12-10) with her walk-off, three-run shot, her fourth home run of the season.

“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to over-think when I stepped into the box,” Buntin said. “I was thinking, ‘Put the ball in play hard somewhere.'”

Both teams struggled to score in the first six innings, facing impressive performances from both Irish sophomore pitcher Laura Winter and Broncos junior pitcher Meredith Whitney. In the seventh inning, Western Michigan (11-10) broke the scoreless tie and opened up a 3-0 lead with runs from senior right fielder Courtney Rousseau, junior second baseman Diana Patterson and freshman pinch hitter Mackenzie Shepeck.

The Irish earned their first run with a homerun from sophomore outfielder Lauren Stuhr with no outs in the seventh, but after hitting in to two outs, Notre Dame still trailed 3-1.

Irish freshman infielder Jenna Simon extended the game when she sent a triple into left field and returned the Irish batting lineup to the top of the roster. With senior outfielder Alexa Maldonado up to bat, Western Michigan gathered at the pitcher’s mound before issuing an intentional walk to Maldonado, forcing junior outfielder Kelsey Thornton to step forward.

Despite her 0-3 standing for the day, Thornton put the ball in play for the Irish, allowing Simon to score a run and Maldonado to slide into second and barely escape the attempted tag-out. With two outs on the board, the Irish trailed 3-2.

As Buntin stepped up to the plate, the Broncos debated the call against Maldonado’s slide. When play resumed, Whitney threw the first ball far outside, but the second sailed over the plate and Buntin connected for a home run.

“I just tried to stay nice and relaxed,” Buntin said. “I knew she was struggling to throw strikes, so I knew to be ready if she brought the ball over the plate.”

Buntin’s shot was all the Irish needed for the victory.

“I knew it was a solid hit but I wasn’t sure if it would quite make it over the fence or not,” Buntin said. “Once I was rounding first I got my answer, though.”

Notre Dame recorded only four hits during the entirety of the game, two of which were Stuhr and Buntin’s home runs in the seventh. Simon recorded Notre Dame’s two other hits of the game.

The Irish have little time to celebrate before a double-header today against Toledo. The Rockets (7-17) hosted their own home opener last Wednesday with a 5-2 win over Wright State, followed by a 5-4 loss in game two of the double-header. In the 2010-11 season, they captured total eight wins, but are are already looking to match that figure this season.

The Irish continue their home series today against Toledo at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Melissa Cook Stadium.

 

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu