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Softball: Doubleheaders mark opening of league play

Dan Murphy | Friday, March 31, 2006

Notre Dame begins conference play this weekend with a pair of doubleheaders at Ivy Field.

The Irish will see a combination of strong defense and powerful hitting as they welcome Connecticut and Providence for two games each in the Big East’s first weekend.

“Any time you play tough competition early on it prepares you for the conference,” right-handed pitcher Kenya Fuemmeler said. “We know what we have will have to do beat teams later on in the year.”

The Irish finished their pre-conference schedule at 14-10. Out of the 10 losses, only two have been by more than one run, with three coming in extra innings.

Notre Dame has won five of its last seven games, with the only losses in the past two weeks coming in one-run games against No. 2 Texas and No. 7 Alabama.

“We are definitely ready to take on the Big East,” catcher Mallorie Lenn said. “We plan on winning the conference this year.”

The action begins on Saturday at noon in the first of two games against the Huskies. Connecticut (14-11) comes into Saturday’s games having won six straight contests and eight of their last 10.

The Huskies have been getting it done on the mound, shutting out their opponents in four of the eight. On Wednesday, the squad defeated Holy Cross 11-0.

The Irish are still confident they will be able to take care of business in the conference.

“We have amazing talent, motivation and team chemistry, and when we bring all of these aspects to the field we are one great ball club,” Lenn said.

The Friars, who face Notre Dame in two games Sunday afternoon, also come to South Bend firing on all cylinders. Before losing to Rutgers last weekend, Providence had reeled off eight straight wins to bring its record to 15-5 on the year.

Unlike the Huskies, the Friars have been winning games by big scores – including a 7-2 win over Villanova, an 11-1 defeat of Rutgers and a 16-7 blowout of Fairleigh Dickinson in recent weeks.

The Irish pitching staff has succeeded in shutting down big bats all year long and is confident it will be able to do the same with the Friars.

“As a whole, we always try to focus on keeping the ball in the park and giving our hitters a chance to win the ball game,” Fuemmeler said.