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Bargar and Co. look to stay unbeaten at home

Michael Bryan | Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Notre Dame will look to continue its winning ways at home tonight at 6 p.m., facing off against Toledo at Ivy Field.

After winning five in a row at home last weekend, the Irish (14-12) attempt to stay unbeaten on their own turf against the Rockets (4-14). The red-hot Notre Dame pitching staff, which has led the way during their win streak, should challenge the slumping Toledo club.

In their five home wins, Irish hurlers have posted an earned- run average of 0.66. Leading the way for the Irish has been sophomore Brittney Bargar, who was named Big East pitcher of the week Tuesday.

Bargar went 3-0 with wins over IUPUI, St. John’s and Seton Hall. The righty allowed only two runs in her three starts, shutting out St. John’s and pitching complete games in all three contests. Bargar also struck out 20 batters in 20 innings on the weekend, bringing her season total to a team-leading 109.

Freshman Heather Johnson, one of Notre Dame’s offensive leaders during the streak, was also named to the Big East honor roll for the week. In the five Irish wins, Johnson batted .538 with five doubles and six RBI. The infielder posted a pair of three-hit games – including three doubles against Seton Hall, matching a Notre Dame record.

Offensively, senior centerfielder Stephanie Brown should cause trouble for Toledo. Leading the Big East in on-base percentage at .487, Brown has come up big for the Irish in the leadoff spot. Brown is second in the conference in batting average at .412.

The Rockets have struggled to start the season and head into South Bend on a three-game skid. Pitching woes have been the main source of Toledo’s struggles – the Rockets have given up an average of 6.8 runs per game.

One of the few bright spots for Toledo this season has been first baseman Leslie Strong. The junior has batted .370 on the season, including four homers and 11 RBI. Aside from Strong, however, the Rockets have also struggled to produce on the offensive end – no other batter is hitting over .250.

The game against Toledo is an out-of-conference break for the Irish, who will return to Big East play this weekend with doubleheaders at home against Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Rockets begin Mid-American Conference play Saturday against Buffalo.

No Irish players were available for comment prior to the game.