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Softball: Team faces Crusaders in rivalry

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Notre Dame has beaten Valparaiso the previous 24 times – and the Irish will look to continue this impressive streak when they visit the Crusaders at 5 p.m. today.

“I’m sure that Valpo knows [about the streak] too and that will make them want us even more,” Notre Dame coach Deanna Gumpf said.

The Crusaders (18-25) are having their best season in a long time. In recent years, the games between Valparaiso and Notre Dame have been blowouts. Since the 2003 season the Irish have outscored Valparaiso 45-1 in five meetings. The one run came on a wild pitch in the third inning of the April 23, 2003 matchup.

Along with their prolific offensive numbers, the Irish have held the Crusaders to four hits in the last six meetings and recorded at least one no-hitter each season since 2003. In 2004, pitcher Stephanie Stenglein threw a perfect game in a 9-0 rout.

Senior pitcher Heather Booth is coming off of her own perfect game Sunday against Rutgers. She will get the start in today’s game where she will look to continue her dominance against the Crusaders.

“Every day is a new day and I hope that she takes the same thought process into the Valpo game,” Gumpf said.

The key to her success will be shutting down the top two hitters in the lineup – outfielders Ann Sievert and Karen Korb. Sievert, a senior, hits leadoff and has an on-base percentage of .320. Korb bats second and has 13 steals in her rookie season.

If Booth can keep the two speedsters off the base paths, she will minimize the potential damage from the middle of the order. By working her full arsenal of off-speed pitches, Booth could keep Sievert and Korb off balance.

Gumpf said she wants to see the team get off to a good start offensively by staying patient and focused at the plate. Notre Dame will look to stay back on pitches to maintain offensive momentum.

“We tend to get too aggressive and pop up a lot,” Gumpf said. “I want to concentrate on hitting line drives and hard ground balls.”

As the pressure begins to mount towards the end of the season, picking up the win this afternoon would be crucial to keeping momentum down the final stretch.

“I think you always feel a little extra pressure at this time, but I hope that at this point they want that pressure,” Gumpf said. “As the going gets tough we get even tougher.”