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ND Softball

Irish to face Valparaiso at home

| Thursday, April 24, 2014

In their last game before hosting the Fourth Annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend, the No. 21 Irish face Valparaiso tonight at Melissa Cook Stadium.

Irish infielder Laura Winter connects with a pitch against Illinois State during the fall season Sept. 15.Kevin Song | The Observer

Irish infielder Laura Winter connects with a pitch against Illinois State during the fall season Sept. 15.

The Irish (30-10, 10-5 ACC) split two games against ACC rival North Carolina State in their most recent series. The team started the double-header with a win but fell to the Wolfpack (30-14, 14-7 ACC) in the second game of the day.

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said her team deviated from its usual strength in the second game of the series.

“We took two steps forward and then took a step back,” Gumpf said. “We want to be able to move on from NC State, get back to what we’ve been doing well and continue on that path moving forward.”

Valparaiso (19-25, 9-4 Horizon League) is in the midst of a road swing. The Crusaders swept a two-game series at Western Illinois in their last series and travel to Notre Dame and Wright State before returning home. The Crusaders’ away record is 4-10 on the season.

Senior pitcher Laura Winter leads the Irish from the circle. Winter pitched her first career perfect game Friday against Virginia and holds a 2.27 ERA on the season, not allowing any earned runs in Tuesday’s first game against North Carolina State.

Gumpf said she emphasized preparing for the hitting power of the Crusaders’ lineup.

“Their one and three hitters are pretty darn good,” Gumpf said. “They have a lot of power.”

Winter will face off against Valparaiso’s sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Ranieri, who was named the Horizon League Player of the Week in early April. Ranieri leads her team in runs (32) and hits (54).

The Crusaders’ junior catcher Tarah McShane has notched a team-high 30 RBI, and senior utility player Amanda Wisniewski leads Valparaiso with ten home runs on the season.

For the Irish, sophomore infielder Micaela Arizmendi leads with 41 RBI and is tied with junior catcher Cassidy Whidden for a team-high ten home runs. Junior outfielder Emilee Koerner tops the runs category with 44 on the season.

Gumpf said Arizmendi and freshman outfielder Karley Wester add a crucial reliability and depth to the Irish squad.

“Karley Wester has been on fire and Micaela Arizmendi, her power numbers have been crazy,” Gumpf said. “Those two have probably been the most consistent lately.”

Led by Arizmendi, Whidden and Koerner, Notre Dame’s offense batters have outscored their opponents 268-121 this season. They take on Valparaiso’s sophomore pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer on Thursday. Weissenhofer holds a 12-7 record and a 4.47 ERA.

After Thursday’s matchup, seven opportunities remain for the Irish to add another tally to the win column.

“We worked really, really hard all year to put ourselves in a great position, so we need to use these games to let the hard work pay off,” Gumpf said.

The first pitch of tonight’s game against the Crusaders is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium.

About Christina Kochanski

Christina is a member of the University of Notre Dame's Class of 2017. She plans to graduate with a degree in finance. She writes for the Sports section of the Observer and enjoys playing soccer.

Contact Christina