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ND SOFTBALL: Big Bats help Irish take twin billing

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Notre Dame tacked on two more wins in a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon against Western Michigan to boost its record to 22-14 on the season. The Broncos dropped to 13-16 following Tuesday’s games. The Irish wasted no time in the first game opening up a sizable lead as they put up five runs in the bottom of the first inning. In the following inning, they pounded out three more to put the game out of reach for Western Michigan. “[A good start] makes us or breaks us,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “It’s interesting how the momentum can just carry over the whole way when you jump on them early.”The offensive onslaught was sparked both times by senior center fielder Stephanie Brown, who led off both innings with a single. Second baseman Katie Laing knocked her in both times with a pair of doubles for two of her four RBIs on the day. The junior also scored four times herself in the two games. Her biggest hit of the first game came in the bottom of the fourth when she crushed a high fastball over the left field wall to give the Irish a 9-0 advantage. Senior pitcher Kenya Fuemmeler retired the side in order in the next half inning, and the game was called at that point due to the mercy rule. Fuemmeler came in to relieve sophomore Brittney Bargar in the third inning, and the pair combined to shut out the Broncos, giving up one hit apiece.Gumpf decided to go with the same pitching plan in game two, and it worked just as well. The Irish cruised to a 5-1 win. Bargar gave up a double to right center to the first batter of the game, but did not allow another ball out of the infield in her five innings of work. “She just wanted the hitters to do what she wanted them to do. She was jamming them and she was getting them to hit off the end of the bat,” Gumpf said.Notre Dame used small ball to get itself on the scoreboard in the third. After walking to lead off the inning, Brown advanced to second on a perfect bunt from senior catcher Gessica Hufnagle. Laing then picked up her final RBI on the day with a single to left field. She also came around to score when freshman third baseman Heather Johnson snuck one past the Western infield. Johnson’s next hit didn’t need to sneak by anyone. She connected with a fastball and sent it towering over the left field wall for a three-run dinger. The moonshot gave Notre Dame a 5-0 advantage. Johnson also had a solid game on defense with six assists from the hot corner.”Johnson did a really nice job. I think she had two balls hit at her every inning,” Gumpf said. The Broncos were able to scratch across one run in the sixth inning when Kristi Strange singled to left, but Fuemmeler was able to stifle the threat and finish off the win for Notre Dame. The Irish will play again this afternoon against Ball State at 5 p.m. on Ivy Field.