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ND Softball: Winter leads squad to sweep over Pirates

Ernst Cleofe | Thursday, April 26, 2012

Facing not only a Big East opponent in Seton Hall, but also the length of a mid-week doubleheader with long rain delays, the Irish pulled out two good efforts to sweep the Pirates on Wednesday. The Irish stood behind stringent defense and the continued hotstreak of sophomore pitcher Laura Winter.

Winter continued her dominant pitching performances after throwing a no-hitter Saturday. She provided a steady force on the mound with a complete game in the first game and six innings-pitched in the second game. Winter ended the day with 17 strikeouts, only giving up six hits.

Senior outfielder and captain Alexa Maldonado said Winter is a sparkplug for the team.

“She’s done an unbelievable job recently,” Maldonado said. “We work off her energy, and when she has been on the mound, she’s brought intensity. We played a great all-around game and it helped us pull out a big win.”

In the first game, Notre Dame (29-13, 10-3 Big East) struck first against the Pirates (20-27, 2-14) and kept the lead. After getting a run in the first inning, the Irish exploded for five runs in the second that gave Winter the cushion to pitch dominantly and earn the 8-0 win.

“We had a great team win and we did a great job all over the field,” Maldonado said. “[Winter] got a great start and we strung together a few hits.”

Maldonado led the Irish with two hits and two RBIs, while senior infielder Dani Miller added a home run. For a team whose season has been focused around defense, the offense was the big difference that sparked the team’s success.

“The key to the game was hitting and being smart about our choices against their pitchers,” Maldonado said.

Problems with the weather caused a slow start to the second half of the doubleheader for the Irish. After Seton Hall tied up the game in the top of the fifth inning, the Irish had another big inning to seal the win.

In the fifth inning, the Irish scored four runs to put themselves ahead by the final 5-1 margin. Miller hit another home run during Notre Dame’s fifth inning run, pushing her home run streak to three games.

“In the second game, it took us awhile to get started,” Maldonado said. “But after we started to get hits, we started to play better and it showed in the fifth inning.”

The sweep aids Notre Dame’s goal of making the Big East tournament and finishing the rest of its Big East schedule undefeated.

“We need this win to keep our momentum going especially after the way the game went,” Maldonado said. “These were big wins especially because we want to finish the season undefeated.”

The day was a big test for the Irish, but the team still finished with two impressive wins.

“We had a long game, and even though it was tough, I think it didn’t affect us at all,” Maldonado said. “We stayed focused throughout the game, and each time we stepped on to the field, we didn’t seem like it had any effect on us.”

The Irish continue their Big East schedule with three games at Providence this weekend.

Contact Ernst Cleofe at ecleofe@nd.edu