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ND Softball: Upset victory energizes Irish to win 8 of 9 games

Molly Sammon | Tuesday, March 16, 2010

 Notre Dame’s upset of No. 14 Ohio State early in its Spring Break trip gave the Irish the momentum to win eight of nine games in a pair of tournaments in California.

“Playing nine games in 10 days is grueling, and I thought they did a great job,” Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said. “I am proud of the way we came out in Riverside to start things off, and I liked the way we finished in Long Beach versus some great teams.”
For the first of the two tournaments, the Irish traveled to Riverside, Calif. for the Aten Construction tournament where they defeated Ohio State, East Tennessee State, Cal State Northridge and host UC Riverside.
“A 10-day road trip is tough on anyone,” Gumpf said. “To go in and beat a ranked opponent, beat three teams at their home field and finish with three strong wins is very impressive. I truly believe our team can beat anyone.”
The Irish took an early lead against Ohio State after junior infielder Katie Fleury hit a home run in the fifth inning. Though junior pitcher Jody Valdivia gave up a three-run homer in the sixth inning that threatened the Irish lead, she secured the win by shutting Ohio State down in the seventh inning as the Irish offensive rally decided the game. Five runs in the seventh inning rounded out a 12-5 defeat of the team that promised to provide the toughest competition of Notre Dame’s Spring Break schedule. 
Senior first baseman Christine Lux had a game for the record books in Notre Dame’s 6-1 win over East Tennessee State as she hit her 37th career home run to break the Irish record. The record breaking continued for Lux as the first baseman also claimed the most putouts at first base in program history. 
“I am thrilled for [Lux],” Gumpf said. “She deserves it. She is a great hitter who has most pitchers on their heels.”
The Irish shut out both of their remaining opponents before leaving Riverside, beating the hosts 10-0 in 5 innings before finishing with a 3-0 victory over Cal State Northridge that was highlighted by Valdivia’s one-hitter 
“Jody is performing like a leader and a veteran,” Gumpf said. “She knows how to beat teams and is doing a great job controlling hitters.”
Later in the week, the Irish traveled to Long Beach, Calif. for the Long Beach State Invitational, where four wins in five low-scoring games improved their overall record to 16-5. A tough 2-1 loss against San Diego State ended Notre Dame’s 11-game win streak.
The Irish defeated Buffalo 1-0 in their first game of the tournament as Valdivia pitched a two-hitter and struck out seven batters. Sophomore infielder Dani Miller’s sacrifice fly brought in senior catcher Alexia Clay for the win in the sixth-inning. Later in the day, freshman pitcher Brittany O’Donnell received her first collegiate loss against San Diego State, a team that has been flirting with the NCAA rankings for the first part of the season. A solo home run from senior infielder Heather Johnson gave the Irish their only run in their fifth loss of the season. The Irish attempted a comeback in the seventh and left two runners on base as San Diego State recorded the game’s final out. 
The Irish followed up their loss with two wins over UNLV and tournament host Long Beach State. 
Valdivia struck out 10 batters and gave up three hits in Notre Dame’s 4-1 victory over UNLV. Junior Sadie Pitzenberger’s three hits accompanied with hits from Erin Marrone and Miller established the Irish win. 
The Irish beat Long Beach State 4-2 with pitchers Valdivia, O’Donnell and freshman Jackie Bowe all contributing to the win. Offensively, the Irish got an early start as an RBI from Johnson and a pair of RBIs from Miller gave the Irish a lead which they kept for the duration of the game. Though Long Beach State scored two runs in the sixth inning and had two runners on base in the seventh, the Irish defense was able to suppress any rally. 
In their final contest of the break, the Irish defeated Purdue 3-0. Fleury had two hits and scored once, and Johnson had one home run, two hits and three RBIs for the Irish. Valdivia earned her 11th straight win on the mound, struck out nine batters, and pitched the first six innings of the game without letting up any Boilermaker hits. 
“It’s so crucial to have some great competition before Big East starts and I believe we have accomplished that,” Gumpf said. “We are in a great position to begin Big East and the team is well prepared for it.”
Next, the Irish will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. to play Western Michigan on Thursday to squeeze in one more away game before their 2010 season home opener against Eastern Michigan on Tuesday at Melissa Cook Stadium on Mar. 23.