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Softball: Irish prepared for home opener

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, March 29, 2006

After starting the season with 23 consecutive road games, the Irish (13-10) finally take the field at Notre Dame, playing their home opener against Bowling Green (17-8) today at 5 p.m.

The Irish are coming off arguably their best day of the season so far, having swept a doubleheader against Western Michigan last weekend. Not only did Notre Dame win both games, but won both in very different, yet equally dramatic fashions. The combined no-hitter thrown by Heather Booth and Kenya Fuemmeler in the first game and the eight-inning, 2-1 victory in game two showed Notre Dame’s ability to win tough games.

Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf hopes to take this weekend’s game and use it as motivation for her team against Bowling Green.

“I hope we can use the momentum from the weekend, but three days is a long time for softball,” Gumpf said.

Bowling Green has had an impressive start so far this year, having already beaten No. 13 Washington earlier in the season. Going into Tuesday night’s matchup with defending champion Michigan, Bowling Green has a seven-game win streak, including five shutouts.

Gumpf recognized the need for her team to be at their absolute best in this game, playing against one of the strongest Bowling Green teams in recent memory.

Although they have been strong defensively all season, the Irish will look to wake up their bats, as Notre Dame batters reached base safely only seven times in eight innings against Western Michigan.

The Falcons have a lineup that could challenge the Irish pitching staff. Bowling Green has three starting players hitting over .300 for the year, the most fearsome of whom is third baseman Gina Rango, the Bowling Green cleanup hitter currently batting .392 with a .662 slugging percentage.

Senior Heather Booth and freshman Brittney Bargar will most likely split the game against this potent lineup. While Booth has a 6-7 record, she owns a 1.70 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Bargar has been a very consistent pitcher this year, winning seven of her first ten starts in her Irish career.

The Irish are 14-3 all-time in season home openers, and have beaten Bowling Green in six of their last seven meetings. More importantly, the Irish know they thrive on intensity – something that has propelled them to every one of their victories so far this year.

“They [the team] knows they need to keep their intensity high because when we don’t play with intensity, we don’t win,” Gumpf said.