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ND Softball: Bargar, Irish start season strong

Jared Jedick | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Notre Dame celebrated spring break in style, winning three of four in the Worth Invitational and three of five in the Long Beach State Invitational, including a 2-1 victory over No. 24 Virginia Tech.

Junior standout Brittney Bargar was named the Big East pitcher of the week after posting a .55 ERA in 25.1 innings throughout the week.

“The pitchers really stepped up for us this week,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “Brittney [Bargar] pitched a one-hitter for us against Long Beach State, and we lost 1-0. That is almost unheard of.”

Senior Katie Laing had a strong offensive performance for the Irish, breaking the Notre Dame career record for doubles with 50.

“Katie Laing does not get cheated when she is at bat,” Gumpf said. “She is consistent and she just fights and fights until she gets a hit.”

The Irish began the break in Fullerton, Calif., by beating up Pacific University 11-3 and UC Davis 6-5, behind strong pitching from Bargar and freshman Jody Valdivia. Valdivia tallied a career high nine strikeouts against UC Davis.

The bats came alive for the Irish, who had been in a bit of a slump before those games. Laing and freshman Sadie Pitzenberger both crossed home plate three times, and Laing and sophomore Heather Johnson combined for six RBI’s.

“I think we are making some small strides in improving our hitting,” Gumpf said. “But our primary goal is still to have better at-bats and hit the ball consistently.”

The Irish lost to Cal State-Fullerton 1-0, in a game they thought they should have won.

“We felt like we needed to beat them because we should,” Gumpf said.

The Irish got their revenge later in the week when the two teams met for a second time, this time with the Irish on top of another 1-0 contest.

Next came another offensive explosion against UC Riverside, in which Laing broke the Notre Dame doubles record while going 3-4 with 3 RBIs.

The Irish then traveled to the Long Beach State Invitational in Mayfair Park, Calif., to take on some of the best pitching in the NCAA.

“We faced three of the best pitchers in the nation going against UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Long Beach State,” Gumpf said. “Virginia Tech’s pitcher [Angela Tincher] is probably the best in the entire country.”

The Irish believe that facing the best and competing is the best measure of the team’s progress.

“Every game is important to show that we are able to compete with the best pitching in the country and even beat them,” Gumpf said. “That is great for the girls confidence.”

The Irish lost to UCLA and Long Beach State in one-run heartbreakers. In those two contests, the Irish pitching staff allowed just two earned runs over 13 innings.

Bargar allowed only one run and six hits with four strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over Virginia Tech, while Valdivia also impressed against Cal State-Fullerton in the rematch, hurling seven shutout innings.

The final game of the trip, a 3-1 victory against Cal State Northridge, belonged to Pitzenberger, whose two-run double was enough to ensure the Irish of victory.

“As a freshman, [Pitzenberger] really handles herself with great self-confidence,” Gumpf said.

Pitzenberger’s work ethic has rubbed off on all of the freshmen, who all have excited Gumpf.

“Everyone is contributing,” Gumpf said. “This is a really great freshman class.”

The Irish hope to ride their momentum into next weekend’s Charleston Southern University Invitational.