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Softball: Irish run win streak to eight

Megan Finneran | Monday, March 4, 2013

This weekend the Irish captured their eighth consecutive win, completing a weekend sweep for the second time this season. Notre Dame (12-5) secured four wins between Saturday and Sunday in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic.

The squad took an early start to the weekend Saturday, knocking down Boston College 14-3 in five innings and Georgia Tech 6-2. Sunday they continued strong performances, shutting out LIU Brooklyn 5-0 and beating Maryland 5-3. Senior catcher Amy Buntin and sophomore infielder Jenna Simon led the offensive, as Buntin had a home run and four RBI and Simon contributed four hits and two runs scored. Strong performances on the mound from senior Brittany O’Donnell and junior Laura Winter held a strong defense.

“Two sweeps in a row is huge for us, especially going into spring break next week where we are scheduled to play some very good teams,” Irish senior infielder Kathryn Lux said. “This has given us the momentum we need to keep this streak going.”

A grand slam from sophomore outfielder Emilee Koerner gave the Irish an early lead against Boston College (4-5), fueling the Irish offense. Lux started the action in the bottom of the second, hitting an RBI single to send junior outfielder Lauren Stuhr home and give the Irish a 1-0 lead. A string of walks and an error allowed sophomore catcher Cassidy Whidden and Lux to score, putting Notre Dame up 3-0. Senior outfielder Kelsey Thornton loaded the bases when a pitch hit her, making room for Koerner’s grand slam.

“We had a lot of big hits over the course of the weekend, which really kept the momentum going in our favor,” Lux said.

In the bottom of the fourth, doubles from freshman infielder Micaela Arizmendi and junior outfielder Monica Torres paired with consecutive RBI singles from Simon and Thornton to close out the game early when Notre Dame reached 14 runs.

Winter’s pitching held strong against Georgia Tech (10-11), striking out nine Yellow Jackets and only allowing four hits. Georgia Tech took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, but Stuhr quickly answered with a home run to tie the game. A difficult catch by Koerner in the top of the fifth gave the Irish a surge of momentum, which they built on in the bottom of the inning when junior infielder Chloe Saganowich drove Simon and freshman infielder Carly Piccinich home to take a 3-1 lead. Another home run by Stuhr in the bottom of the sixth pushed the lead to 4-1 and a two-run homer by Whidden rounded out the scoring at 6-1.

O’Donnell navigated the Irish through the game against LIU (2-17), striking out eight hitters. Offensively, Notre Dame took control in the top of the first when an RBI from sophomore infielder Katey Haus brought senior outfielder Kelsey Thornton home from third to take an early lead.

“Our hitting and pitching was a definite strength for us this weekend,” Lux said. “Our pitchers did an excellent job of keeping us in ball games, and our hitters were extremely consistent this weekend.”

In the top of the sixth Simon and Buntin jumpstarted the offense once again when Buntin’s fly ball sent Simon home from third to put the Irish at 2-0. A series of walks gave Saganowich the third Irish run. Buntin closed out the morning with a home run, pushing the score to 5-0.

Whidden led Notre Dame against Maryland (4-10), hitting a three-run home run in the top of the sixth after a twelve-pitch battle with Terrapin freshman pitcher Brenna Nation. The home run gave the Irish the 5-3 lead, and would prove to be the final run of the game. Winter won her fourth consecutive game on the mound, putting away the last six batters of the game to close out the weekend.

“The difference for us is just playing together as a team, and getting the job done when it is needed,” Lux said. “No matter who is out on the field, we all have confidence in each other.”

The Irish next travel to Phoenix for the ASU Diamond Devil Invitational March 9-10.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu