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ND Softball: Irish sweep Friars with hot bats

Megan Finneran | Monday, April 30, 2012

A fourth-inning grand slam from senior first baseman Dani Miller propelled the Irish to a 14-2 win Sunday, providing the perfect ending to a weekend series against Providence,. Notre Dame ended the series with yet another string of wins, leaving Providence, R.I., with a three-game sweep and 11-game winning streak.

“The team morale is at a great place right now with the postseason right around the corner, and each game we have helps build the team energy,” junior catcher Amy Buntin said.

The Irish (32-13, 13-3 Big East) cruised past the Friars (15-34, 6-12) in Saturday’s doubleheader, winning the games 5-3 and 8-4, respectively. The weekend started calmly with no runs from either team in the first three innings. Miller then shook up the action with a home run in the fourth, smashing a ball through a car windshield outside the fence. A team effort brought sophomore shortstop Chloe Saganowich safely to home plate in the fifth, giving the Irish a 2-0 lead.

The Irish extended the lead to 5-0 in the top of the sixth inning when senior designated hitter Kasey O’Connor hit a three-run home run.

“The key to all those wins this past weekend was our bats,” Buntin said. “We have a wicked offense, with speed to get on base, then powerhitters to knock those runners in.”

Sophomore pitcher Laura Winter held her ground without allowing a hit until the fifth inning. She allowed Providence freshman first baseman Kristie Dederick’s three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth, but Winter soon regained control.

In the second game, Providence took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Friars were able to keep the lead at two for the first two innings, until Irish freshman third baseman Katey Haus’ single in the top of the third sent senior center fielder Alexa Maldonado home for the first run.

Once Irish junior pitcher Brittany O’Donnell grew comfortable on the mound, Providence had difficulty scoring. A four-run fifth inning gave the Irish their first lead of the game.

Buntin cushioned the lead with a two-run home run in the sixth and, despite three Irish errors in the game and two late runs for the Friars in the seventh inning, Notre Dame managed to hold on for the win.
Sweeping the doubleheader earned the Irish a seat in the 2012 Big East championship,, carrying excitement over into the next day. Between a grand slam by Miller and two homers from Maldonado, it only took five innings for the Irish to close the weekend with a third win.

Buntin paved the way, scoring in the second off a RBI from O’Connor. A home run from Maldonado in the third brought the lead up to 2-0.

Then in the fourth, the offense exploded.

Miller’s grand slam, combined with four more runs, gave the Irish a 10-0 lead. Despite two runs from the Friars in the fourth inning, the Irish cruised on to the victory. Winter allowed three hits in the game and Notre Dame closed the contest with four more runs in the fifth inning.

“I don’t think the thought of not winning ever crossed anyone’s mind on the team,” Buntin said. “Even when we’re behind, our hitters always find a way to produce runs.”

The Irish next face Northern Illinois on Tuesday in Melissa Cook Stadium, with the first pitch delivered at 5 p.m.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu