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ND Softball: Irish split with Scarlet Knights

Ernst Cleofe | Thursday, April 12, 2012

After beginning the day by extending their winning streak to nine games, the Irish picked up their first Big East loss of the season in the back half of a doubleheader with Rutgers on Wednesday.

The Irish (20-11, 4-1 Big East) started off their day in Piscataway, N.J., with a 4-1 win over the Scarlet Knights (17-21, 6-7) behind an impressive effort by sophomore pitcher Laura Winter. Winter threw a complete game with seven strikeouts, giving up only one run on three hits.

“She had great presence and she played with intensity that rubbed off on the team,” senior captain and outfielder Alexa Maldonado said. “Even when there were moments where she gave up hits, she had the presence to keep control of the game, and she could count on us to give behind her.”

In the third inning, freshman designated hitter Cassidy Whidden gave Winter the only cushion she needed with a three-run home run. Junior catcher Amy Buntin added to the Irish lead shortly thereafter when she continued her current hot streak with a solo home run in the fourth.

Along with the offensive output, the defensive effort behind Winter was key to the Irish victory.

“We played good defense that kept the game in control for us,” Maldonado said. “And we scored when we needed to.”

After cruising to a victory to open the series, Notre Dame faced trouble in the day’s second game. The Irish got off to a good start by picking up a five-run lead after four innings at the plate. But in the bottom half of the fourth, Notre Dame started to make mistakes. Following two Irish errors, the Scarlet Knights loaded the bases. After Rutgers scored a run with an RBI single, the Scarlet Knights tied the game at five with a grand slam.

After falling behind by a run in the sixth inning after a Rutgers’ solo shot, the Irish knotted the game again in the seventh inning to push the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Rutgers catcher Kylee Bishop drove in the game-winning double off Winters, who took on the loss after pitching five innings of relief and allowing two runs on four hits.

In the second game, Notre Dame’s errors prove to be enough to deny them the series sweep and their tenth-straight win.

“In the first game, we were in control during the game.” Maldonado said. “[In the second game,] we let things get out of control on defense and we stopped making batting adjustments during the time.”

Notre Dame will look to get back on track in the Big East when it travels to Syracuse for a three-game weekend series starting Saturday.

Contact Ernst Cleofe at ecleofe@nd.edu