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ND Softball: Irish run through Big East slate undefeated

Molly Sammon | Thursday, May 13, 2010

A perfect 19-0 home record and a 19-3 in-conference record will give No. 25 Notre Dame a boost heading into the Big East tournament and the rest of the 2010 postseason.

“Going undefeated at home was definitely one of our team goals at the beginning of the year,” Irish assistant coach Kris Ganeff said. “We’re only the second team in the history of the program to do that.”

The Irish (44-9) suffered through some ups and downs before dominating the Big East season, which ended with the team clinching a share of the regular-season title with DePaul.

“The early tournaments were more of the time for us to prepare, to be ready,” Ganeff said. “We want to feel like we got all the kinks ironed out, because really how well you do in the conference is what counts when we go into the post season,”

Notre Dame needed a 12-game winning streak to counteract a slow 1-4 start to the season.

“That first tournament we didn’t play anywhere near the expectations we should have been playing at,” Ganeff said. “The girls knew that weekend wasn’t representative of what we should have been playing like on the field.”

Notre Dame saw this win streak come to a close with a 2-1 loss to San Diego, but once the team returned to South Bend, it won the next 11 games.

Junior pitcher Jody Valdivia led the Irish to 75 percent of their victories, finishing up the regular season at 35-4 with an ERA of 1.74, including nine shutouts. She is now Notre Dame’s all-time leader in wins from the mound in a single season. Valdivia threw one no-hitter, March 27 against Seton Hall, and tallied a few one-hitters along the way as well.

“Jody has really stepped it up this year for the team,” Ganeff said. “After two years of being the No. 2 pitcher on the team, she really learned the ropes.”

Junior Sadie Pitzenberger led the team offensively with a .409 batting average, while senior Christine Lux’s 55 RBIs led to her breaking the program record for career RBIs.

“Lux overall has just been phenomenal, and this year is no different from the rest. She’s steady and consistent and she’s been that way for all four years,” Ganeff said. “She wants to get to that World Series and she’s not going to stop until she does her part with that.”

The Irish will only be losing Lux this year as seniors Lex Clay and Heather Johnson each have one year of eligibility left and will return next season. 

“We’ll definitely feel the loss of losing the home run leader and first baseman; that’s a big hole to fill,” Ganeff said. “The younger people on the team are going to have a chance to step up. Hopefully, those players should easily fill in those roles, so the program can continue the way it has been going.”

The Irish began the Big East tournament Thursday against Providence, but results were not available at press time. The tournament will continue through Saturday. Notre Dame will begin the NCAA Tournament with regionals on May 20.