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Softball looks for revenge on the road

Justin Schuver | Thursday, April 22, 2004

Two days after a rainout, the Irish hope that lightning doesn’t strike twice for the Illinois-Chicago Flames.

Following a rainout Tuesday that cancelled two games against Northwestern, the Irish (34-13) travel to Illinois today to face the Flames (24-19) in a one-game series. Illinois-Chicago knocked off the Irish 4-3 in 10 innings April 15 at Ivy Field.

“[Illinois-Chicago] came in here and they got the job done,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “With a team like that you can’t keep them in the ballgame. You have to put them away early. We have to play great tomorrow and show that we are the better team.”

The Irish did not follow that formula in their previous meeting with the Flames. Notre Dame took an early 2-0 lead but could not add to it late, allowing the Flames to battle back for the victory.

Although Notre Dame was unable to play a full game Tuesday, the Irish were still able to take some positives from their trip to Northwestern. Notre Dame was up 3-1 in the third inning before wind and heavy rain cancelled the remainder of the doubleheader.

“I would have loved to have those games against Northwestern under our belt because we were really attacking the ball,” Gumpf said. “Even though we weren’t able to play a game, it didn’t mess up our rhythm because it was basically as good as a practice here at home.”

Like Notre Dame, Illinois-Chicago had a scheduled doubleheader rained out on Tuesday. In their most recent action, the Flames swept Valparaiso by scores of 15-0 and 8-0 in a Monday doubleheader. They also have won 13 of their last 14 games.

The Irish games against Northwestern were slated to be the beginning of a major road trip. After facing Illinois-Chicago today, Notre Dame will travel east to face Big East opponents Villanova and Rutgers in doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Villanova leads the Big East with 18 points and a 9-3 conference record, while Notre Dame sits tied for second with 16 points at 8-0. The Wildcats have played four more games than the Irish at this point in the season, however.

Gumpf sees today’s games as an opportunity to tune up for one of its most important conference weekends.

“Even though we’re not overlooking Illinois-Chicago, we’d still like to sort of use that game as batting practice for the Big East,” Gumpf said. “We need to go out there and get the job done to prepare for our games against Villanova and Rutgers this weekend.

“Those are two teams that can really come after us if we’re not ready.”