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ND Softball: Notre Dame snatches doubleheader victory

Mike Monaco | Thursday, March 29, 2012

Less than 24 hours after blasting a walk-off home run to beat Western Michigan on Tuesday, junior catcher Amy Buntin was back at it, as she and the rest of the Irish offense carried the team in a two-game sweep of Toledo on Wednesday at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Notre Dame (14-10) exploded for five runs in the seventh inning Tuesday to snag a come-from-behind win over the Broncos, and the bats remained hot from the start Wednesday, as the Irish won the first game, 9-1, in a shortened five-inning game. Buntin, who leads the team with a .377 average and 25 RBIs, launched her fifth home run of the season in the first inning and had a two-run single in the third.

“Amy Buntin has been on fire lately,” senior outfielder Alexa Maldonado said. “She had a [heck] of a day.”

Freshman outfielder Emilee Koerner tacked on another two runs in the third with a double, and the Irish added three more in the fourth to make it 8-0. Aside from Buntin’s home run, the key to the offense was putting together good at-bats with consecutive hits, Maldonado said.

“We talked about stringing together hits and producing runs for our pitchers,” she said. “When a pitcher pitches and allows no runs all game we should put the other team away.”

Notre Dame put the Rockets (7-19) away quickly. Sophomore pitcher Laura Winter tossed four innings, struck out five and only allowed two hits. Winter (8-6) leads the team with 95 innings pitched, and opponents are only hitting .206 against her on the season.

With Winter in control on the mound, the Irish ended things early in the fifth inning when freshman infielder Jenna Simon ripped an RBI double to score junior pitcher Jackie Bowe.

The Irish bats struggled out of the gates in the nightcap, but the team found its groove in time to secure an 8-0 win. Notre Dame broke through in the third when senior infielder Dani Miller plated a run with her sacrifice fly.

The Irish pushed another run across in the fourth when freshman infielder Katey Haus belted her third home run of the season to give her team a 2-0 lead. From there, the offense erupted with six runs in the fifth inning. Maldonado and Koerner each drove in two runs in the inning and Notre Dame took a commanding 8-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Maldonado raised her batting average to .355 and her team-leading on-base percentage to .424.

“I believe that I’m doing well [recently],” Maldonado said. “I’ve had a lot of walks lately, which is different for me.”

O’Donnell stymied the Toledo offense even after the Irish broke the scoreless tie. The right-hander tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout, going six innings and only walking one batter. Maldonado said the two-game sweep puts the Irish in prime position as they head into a weekend series against Connecticut on a three-game winning streak.

“We set our goal to go undefeated at home and in conference games,” Maldonado said. “We are using these wins to just build off one another and make sure that the positive energy we have now keeps going.”

The Irish open up Big East play Saturday against Connecticut (13-11) at noon at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu