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ND Softball: Bats power series sweep

Katie Heit | Monday, April 15, 2013

In an emotionally charged weekend, the Irish did more than sweep Rutgers in a three-game series – they played the third annual Strikeout Cancer event to raise money for leukemia patients. 

“It was a beautiful weekend,” senior pitcher Brittany O’Donnell said. “To give back to those patients who fight every day was great for us as a Notre Dame softball program.”

The Strikeout Cancer fundraiser was created in support of Irish coach Deanna Gumpf’s daughter, Tatum, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. Strikeout Cancer events were held around a game on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday. Fans were encouraged to wear orange in support of the cause. 

Despite early snow flurries Saturday, the Irish (29-10, 10-1 Big East) took control early on an RBI by sophomore outfielder Emilee Koerner in the bottom of the first. In the top of the third inning, Rutgers (23-18, 6-8) pulled ahead 2-1 with an RBI single. 

Sophomore catcher Cassidy Whidden reclaimed the lead for the Irish in the bottom of the third with a two-out grand slam over the left field fence to give the Irish a 5-2 advantage. A solo home run from sophomore infielder Katey Haus made the Irish lead 6-2 at the end of the third. 

Notre Dame sealed its victory in the bottom of the fifth. After two Rutgers errors scored Irish players to bring the score to 8-2, freshman pinch hitter Casey Africano hit a three-run homer, the first of her collegiate career.

In Sunday’s opener, Notre Dame took control in the bottom of the first with an RBI double from Koerner. Africano hit her second collegiate homerun, a two-run shot over the left-field fence, to bring the score to 3-0 Irish in the bottom of the second. An RBI double by Africano at the bottom of the third gave the Irish a 4-0 lead heading into the fourth inning. 

Another home run, this time by freshman infielder Micaela Arizmendi in the bottom of the fifth, gave the Irish a 5-0 lead. 

In the top of the sixth, Rutgers claimed their only run of the contest, an RBI double increasing the final score to 5-1. 

In game two, the Scarlet Knight pulled ahead early, taking a 6-1 lead into the seventh. A two-run single from junior infielder Chloe Saganowich started the Irish comeback. Two more RBI singles in the seventh left the Irish trailing 6-5. Whidden completed the comeback with a three-run homerun to give Notre Dame the 8-6 victory.  

O’Donnell said each contest against Rutgers taught Notre Dame valuable lessons about what the team needs to do to win.

“I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a team this weekend,” O’Donnell said. “The key to a great team is having teammates that will rise to the occasion when the game is on the line and that’s the special ingredient this group has. We are a team of fighters.” 

Despite the thrill associated with the team’s three victories, O’Donnell said the weekend was about more than just winning a few softball games. 

“The best part of the weekend was definitely supporting Tatum and her friends,” O’Donnell said. 

The Irish will be back in action Tuesday with a game against Michigan State at 5 p.m. in East Lansing, Mich

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu