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Softball to travel to Fla. over break

Heather VanHoegarden | Thursday, March 4, 2004

After knocking off three of six ranked opponents in the early season, Notre Dame has finally jumped into the rankings, grabbing No. 23 in the latest polls.The Irish (10-4) look to continue their play of late as they travel to Florida Atlantic for the FAU/Worth Invitational. This is the first time since 2000 that the Irish will not be in California for spring break, as they have participated in the Kia Klassic at Cal State-Fullerton for the past three years. This year, the tournament did not coincide with the Irish’s spring break.At Florida Atlantic, the Irish will face four teams, two that are under .500. Saturday, they are set to face Massachusetts (4-7). The Minutewomen are led by pitcher Jenna Busa, who is 2-4 with a 3.08 ERA. The matchup will be the teams’ third time and the first since 1997.In the second game, the Irish will face Florida International (4-13). The Golden Panthers are led by their pitching staff, who has recorded a 1.38 staff ERA for the season. Saturday’s game at 12 p.m. will mark the first time these teams meet in softballSunday, Notre Dame is set to face North Carolina (11-7) at 2 p.m. The Tar Heels are led by Emily Price, who is hitting .444 with four home runs and 16 runs. The last time these teams met, the Irish knocked off the Tar Heels at the 1999 National Invitational Tournament.The Invitational concludes Sunday at 2 p.m., when the Irish face Florida Atlantic (17-9). The host of the tournament boasts Pam Mazzarella, who is hitting .385 with seven doubles and six RBI. Following the tournament, the Irish will practice for the rest of the week in Florida, before they travel to No. 4 Florida State to face the Seminoles and participate in Florida State’s Seminole Classic. The Seminoles took second in last weekend’s NFCA Leadoff Classic, where the Irish won the Silver Division. Jessica van der Linden led the Seminoles, as she has been named ACC Player of the Week every week this season.Meanwhile, the Irish have been led by Meagan Ruthrauff and Heather Booth. Ruthrauff was named the Big East Player of the Week after hitting three home runs in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, including two game-winners. She hit .368 with nine RBI on the weekend.Booth, on the other hand, has led the Irish from the mound. She won all three of her starts in the NFCA Leadoff Classic with complete-game showings. In the opener against Northwestern State, she had seven strikeouts and only gave up six hits. She then pitched eight innings against Cal State-Fullerton, giving up just eight hits and one earned run while striking out 11. The next day, Booth pitched a complete game shutout against No. 14 Nebraska, giving up just four hits and striking out five.At the Seminole Classic, the Irish will face Michigan State (8-3) and Troy State (7-5) Friday, Mar. 12. They will face Georgia State (3-5) and Maryland (5-5) Saturday. The Spartans come off a championship at the Golden Panther Adidas Invitational at Florida International after beating the Golden Panthers 3-2.The Irish have matched their second-best start in school history, as the 1995 and 2000 teams both started 10-4.