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ND Softball: Irish begin 11-game homestand against rival Syracuse

Mike Monaco | Friday, April 13, 2012

After seeing its nine-game winning streak snapped in a 7-6 extra-inning loss to Rutgers on Wednesday, Notre Dame looks to get back on track when it hosts Syracuse on Saturday at Melissa Cook Stadium to kick off an 11-game homestand.

The Irish (20-11, 4-1 Big East) didn’t play a home game until the 22nd game of the season, when the squad began its winning streak. After seven wins at home, Notre Dame won two games on the road before Wednesday’s loss. Now, coach Deanna Gumpf said she is hoping the Irish can get back to their winning ways.

“It’s about how we play and [Wednesday] we failed to do the little things really well and it hurt us,” Gumpf said. “We gave up five runs in one inning, we had two errors, some walks, and we gave up some big hits. We can’t do those things and expect to win and be a championship team. We need to go back to what worked when we played really well, which was containing hitters and playing good championship softball.”

Syracuse (27-9, 5-1) stands in Notre Dame’s way. The Orange have also been surging lately, winning seven in a row and 17 of their last 18 games.

“[Syracuse] is going to play well against us,” Gumpf said. “All Big East teams seem to play well against us, but the thing is we need to focus on us. We need to concentrate on minimizing our mistakes and if we do that we will be just fine.”

Gumpf said the Irish are expecting to face Syracuse senior pitcher Jenna Caira, who is 17-3 with a 1.86 ERA on the season. Nonetheless, Gumpf said she expects the offense to have success against Caira.

“I think we match up well with them,” Gumpf said. “They have a good pitcher (Caira) but we have done a good job against her in the past. But we don’t need to focus on Syracuse … I think we have a really strong lineup. We have power and we have speed throughout the lineup.”

During its recent seven-game winning streak, Syracuse’s offense has shouldered the load, averaging just over eight runs per game. Senior outfielder Lisaira Daniels leads the team in batting average, runs, hits, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

Irish sophomore pitcher Laura Winter leads a pitching staff that will be tasked with shutting down Daniels and her teammates. Gumpf said the Irish expect Winter, who leads the team with 13 wins and a 2.09 ERA, to be consistent at this point in the regular season.

“[Winter] has to be pitching well at this time of the year,” Gumpf said. “On the mound we need to have great leadership and she has done that. She has proven herself and we expect that consistency from her.”

Gumpf said she is also looking for the team to reestablish its consistency in all other facets of the game.

“Up until [Wednesday] we had been running on all cylinders,” Gumpf said. [Recently] our hitting has become consistent and our defense has been really solid although we had a hiccup [against Rutgers] … We need to be pitching, hitting and playing defense well. If we do those things better than our competitors, then we will win every game.”

Aside from being a pivotal conference matchup, Saturday’s game against Syracuse is the second annual Strike Out Cancer game. The event raises money to fight pediatric leukemia and all proceeds go to Memorial Children’s Hospital.

“Last year at our Strike Out Cancer day we raised the most money of any NCAA softball team in the nation,” Gumpf said. “We want to exceed that [Saturday].”

The Irish, who will be wearing orange as part of the fundraiser, begin their weekend series against Syracuse with a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 12 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium. Game three is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.


Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu