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ND Softball: Notre Dame takes competitive edge south

By Megan Finneran | Friday, February 22, 2013

The Irish will travel to North Carolina this week for the second time this season. Notre Dame (4-5) will compete in the Pirate Invitational in Greenville, N.C., against Liberty, East Carolina and Fairfield.

Due to potentially adverse weather conditions, Beth Keylon-Randolph, the coach of host team East Carolina, announced alterations to the schedule Thursday. Lehigh, one of the teams originally scheduled to compete, has withdrawn from the tournament.

East Carolina will be hosting its third tournament this season. The Pirates (5-3) have lost twice to Ohio and once to St. John’s. One day after falling 9-5 to the Red Storm, East Carolina bounced back with a 1-0 win.

Liberty (1-3) earned its only win of the season against IUPUI by the count of 5-2. Fairfield opens their season this weekend, competing for the first time in Greenville. The Stags recently earned the top spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

The Irish enter the weekend having most recently suffered a close 7-5 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma. The game lasted nine innings, proving Notre Dame’s ability to compete at the top, according to Irish senior catcher Amy Buntin.

“Although the score at the end didn’t show it, that game showed us that we will fight until the last out of the last inning,” Buntin said. “It was an exciting game to be a part of and we want to continue playing with that same enthusiasm. “

Despite the loss, the Irish left the field with other successes. Their five runs broke the Sooners’ streak of more than 35 scoreless innings. Junior pitcher Laura Winter helped lead the squad with 14 strikeouts, while the deep batting order collected eight hits.

“We are rolling into this weekend with the same energy we brought to the Oklahoma game,” Buntin said.

During the week of practice since Oklahoma, Notre Dame has been looking for ways to improve and emerge from the weekend with three wins.

“This week we focused a lot on our offense and making things happen with our bats when runners are in scoring positions,” Buntin said.

The invitational schedule remains tentative due to weather but the Irish are currently scheduled to start the weekend Saturday at 1 p.m. against Liberty followed by East Carolina at 5:30 p.m. Notre Dame will finish the Pirate Invitational in Greenville, N.C., on Sunday at 9 a.m. against Fairfiely.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu