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ND W Softball: Irish to host Akron after loss

Justin Schuver | Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Irish will have an unfamiliar foe waiting for them when they return to Ivy Field this afternoon. Notre Dame (30-9) will face Akron (20-19) in a doubleheader for the first time since 1990.

“When I don’t know a team all that well it makes me even more wary of them,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “You look at Akron’s numbers and they’re as good as anyone we’ve played. They have players who hit the ball hard, speedy players who steal bases, and their pitchers are good enough to keep them in the game.

“We’re going to have to be ready to play against them.”

Notre Dame recently finished up a nine-game road trip in which the Irish went 8-1.

The team’s lone loss came Tuesday in game two of a doubleheader with DePaul in which the Blue Demons came away with a 7-4 comeback victory.

Notre Dame won game one of that doubleheader, and stretched its winning streak to 19 games before falling to DePaul in game two of the series.

The Irish are anxious to get another winning streak started, and equally anxious to be back home again.

“We’re really hoping to take these games this week and next week and really use them as momentum as we head toward the Big East tournament,” Gumpf said. “I hope that [loss against DePaul] is a wake-up call for our girls that they need to play hard every single game down the stretch.”

One player who has had little trouble consistently answering the call for the Irish has been senior pitcher Steffany Stenglein. Stenglein is 15-4 on the season, with an ERA of 1.27 and a commanding 191 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .141 against her, and she recently pitched an eight inning gem as Notre Dame beat DePaul 2-1 in game one Tuesday.

“[Stenglein] is very confident right now,” Gumpf said after Tuesday’s game. “She has a confidence in her ability to get out of any jam. She trusts her pitches and has shown that she has the ability to consistently strikeout opposing batters.”

Stenglein and the rest of the Irish pitching staff face a tall order in the Akron lineup, which features both power and average.

First baseman Kelly Quigley leads the Mid-American Conference with 11 home runs on the season – eight more than the co-leaders for Notre Dame in that category.

Shortstop Sara Zilles has been a terror on the basepaths, hitting for a .359 average and stealing a MAC-high 19 steals in 29 attempts. And the Zips are equally represented on the mound, with a pitching staff led by Tina McCauley (1.60 ERA).

Akron comes into Ivy Field after winning one of its last three games against conference foe Miami (Ohio). The Zips are in a bit of a slump, losing five of their last eight games.

Notre Dame remains at home following the Akron doubleheader to face St. John’s in a two-game series on Friday and Seton Hall in a doubleheader Saturday. Game one against the Zips is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at Ivy Field.