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ND Softball: Winter propels Irish to three-game sweep

Katie Heit | Monday, April 22, 2013

The Irish claimed their fourth Big East sweep of the season with a dominating three-game run against Pittsburgh this weekend. 

Senior catcher Amy Buntin said the sweep proved the Irish had reached the rhythm they had been searching for all season. 

“It feels great to get another Big East sweep this weekend,” Buntin said. “It feels great for our team to finally come together.” 

Notre Dame (33-10, 13-1 Big East) started the weekend out slowly against the Panthers (16-26, 5-12). In game one, the Irish were unable to break a 1-1 tie until the top of the seventh inning. 

Junior pitcher Laura Winter started the action for the Irish with an RBI single that brought the score to 2-1. A Pittsburgh error scored sophomore outfielder Emilee Koerner and junior pinch runner Monica Torres. Then two more hits brought the final score to 7-1 and secured the victory for the Irish. 

In game two, Winter hit her 10th homerun of the season in the top of the second to put the Irish on the board. A wild pitch and an error at short allowed sophomore catcher Cassidy Whidden to score an unearned run and brought the score to 2-0. 

The Panthers tied the score at two in the bottom of the third with a two-run homer, but Whidden responded in the fourth with a two-run bomb of her own. 

The Irish continued to pull away down the stretch, and Whidden rounded off the day with her second home run of the game to bring the final score to 10-2. 

The Irish pulled ahead early Sunday in the final matchup of the weekend. Koerner and sophomore infielder Katey Haus made it on base off of errors in the top of the first and were both sent home when Winter shot one over the fence to give the Irish a 3-0 lead. 

Another hit from Winter in the top of the fifth sent Simon home. Freshman outfielder Casey Africano hit an RBI single to bring Buntin home. At the end of the fifth, the Irish led 5-0, and they pushed that lead to 7-0 in the sixth.

That was six more runs than the Irish would need. In addition to her monster day at the plate, Winter was nearly perfect in the circle Sunday, allowing just one hit while striking out 14 batters.

Buntin said Winter’s familiarity with the opponent played a huge part in her success on the mound. 

“The key to Laura’s near perfect game was studying the batters before stepping on the field each inning,” Buntin said. “In my mind, Laura threw a perfect game. She knew every batter’s weaknesses and how to attack them. She approached every hitter with a plan.”

Buntin said the sweep against Pittsburgh is another stepping stone toward Notre Dame’s goals for the remainder of the season. 

“Each and every Big East win for us at this point is important in helping us reach our goal of taking Notre Dame softball where it’s never gone before,” Buntin said. “These next couple of weekends will be crucial for our season.”

The Irish take the field at home against Connecticut on Tuesday at 12 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium. 

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu