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Softball: Team dominates Invitational

Katie Heit | Monday, February 25, 2013

Coming off two straight losses against top opponents, the Irish managed to turn their momentum around and sweep the Pirate Invitational in Greenville, N.C., this weekend, outscoring the competition 30-7.

The weekend began with two victories on Saturday against East Carolina (5-7) and Liberty (3-6), 9-1 and 10-2 respectively. In both contests, the Irish (8-5) claimed the win in only five innings.

Sophomore catcher Cassidy Whidden said the key to the dominant wins was Notre Dame’s offense.

“We really hit the ball well this weekend,” Whidden said. “We attacked good pitches and put the ball in play.”

Dominating players included sophomore outfielder Emilee Koerner – who went 5-for-6 on Saturday, including a home run, a double and four runs scored – and junior pitcher Laura Winter, who hit the first home run of her college career.

Sunday, the Irish took on Fairfield (2-2) before facing off with East Carolina once again. Haus said Fairfield proved to be the hardest competition of the weekend.

“The game against Fairfield was definitely the toughest,” Haus said. “It came down to back to back home runs by [Koerner and Winter] in the bottom of the seventh to bring home the win.”

Koerner’s home run tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh. Shortly after, Winter hit a home run with a full-count and gave the Irish the walk-off 5-4 victory.

After never homering in her first two seasons, the game-winner was Winter’s third homer in as many games on the weekend.

The Irish rounded out the weekend with a final game against East Carolina. Notre Dame pulled ahead early, finishing the top of the first inning with a 5-0 lead. The Pirates responded in the bottom of the second and managed to put two hitters on base before senior pitcher Brittany O’Donnell clenched the inning with a strikeout.  Whidden completed the Irish scoreboard with a long hit over the wall in center to bring the final score to 6-0.

Whidden said the Irish weren’t worried about who their opponents were during the long weekend.

“We just focused on bringing the best Notre Dame team to the field every game,” Whidden said. “Our goal was to finish every inning, pitch and play.”

With another four-game weekend ahead of them, Koerner said the sweep at the Pirate Invitational was a huge boost in momentum.

“It definitely gave us confidence,” Koerner said. “We proved how good of a team we can be and we set the bar high for ourselves and each game we play next.”

The Irish hit the field again Saturday when they compete in the Citrus Classic in Buena Vista, Fla.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu