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ND Softball: Irish face top Big East team

Dan Murphy | Friday, April 27, 2007

Notre Dame will take the field once again Sunday afternoon after rainy weather postponed Thursday’s matchup with Illinois-Chicago. The Irish will travel to Chicago, but this time to take on Big East powerhouse DePaul in a doubleheader.

The No. 11 Blue Demons currently hold first place in the conference with a perfect 14-0 record. With only two weeks remaining until the Big East tournament, the games will have seeding implications for both teams.

The Irish are two spots behind DePaul with a 9-5 conference record. South Florida, who beat the Irish twice this season, is nipping at Notre Dame’s heels in the fourth spot at 7-5 in the Big East.

“Games like these are always huge, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said.

The Blue Demons have won their past nine contests, dating back to a 4-3 loss to No. 17 Illinois State March 21. The last time they lost by more than one run was Feb. 24 when No. 8 Baylor beat them 4-0.

The Blue Demons have also yet to lose in their 13 home games this season. Saturday’s double-dip with the Irish presents the last real threat to their perfect mark since the only team that remains on their home schedule after this weekend is Illinois-Chicago (15-26).

“No one thinks we are going to win, except for us,” Gumpf said. “It’s very important for us to stay focused and get after it.”

Pitching has been the backbone of DePaul’s success this year. Senior right-hander Traci Adix leads the staff with a 13-1 record and an ERA of 0.59. She has also thrown six complete game shutouts. Fellow senior Meghan Huitnik and freshman Becca Heteniak join Adix in the rotation. The trio has combined for an ERA of 1.38 in their first 39 games.

Notre Dame pitchers Brittney Bargar and Kenya Fuemmeler will look to be on top of their games in order to keep the score close and give the Irish bats time to get to the DePaul pitchers.

The Irish have struggled at the plate recently, putting up only four runs during their current five-game losing streak, including two shutouts.

“We’re leaving way too many people on base. We’ve had plenty of opportunities – we just aren’t taking care of them,” Gumpf said.

Thirty-four baserunners have been stranded during the losing streak, which averages out to more than one per inning.

Notre Dame will need to take advantage of any scoring chances the Blue Demons give them to come away with a couple of wins this weekend. The first game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., and the second will get underway around 3 p.m.