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ND Softball: Team sweeps 5 games at UCF Invitational

Kelsey Manning | Monday, February 21, 2011

On the heels of a 5-0 sweep in the UCF Invitational in Florida over the weekend, the Irish return to South Bend with the 2011 season off to an auspicious start.

In the tournament opener the Irish faced Miami (Ohio), and three freshmen cracked the starting lineup: infielder Chloe Saganowich, outfielder Lauren Stuhr and pitcher and infielder Laura Winter. The freshman pitcher stepped up by finishing out the fifth inning with a strikeout, leaving the path open for the team to take a 3-2 lead, which it held onto for the remainder of the matchup. Starting pitcher Jackie Bowe, a sophomore, contributed three strikeouts of her own in her 4.2 innings pitched.

Notre Dame brought confidence from the season-opening victory into its next matchup against the hosting Central Florida Knights. The numerous Irish veterans took the lead this time, including senior pitcher Jody Valdivia who did not allow a single runner on base until the fourth. Notre Dame’s nine hits on the day were a collective effort with hitters including junior Dani Miller, sophomore Amy Buntin and seniors Katie Fleury, Heather Johnson and Brianna Jorgensborg, whose sacrifice fly brought the team to its final margin of 5-3.

After a successful Day One of the Invitational for the Irish, they took on the University of Illinois-Chicago in what turned into a complete win for Notre Dame. Junior Alexa Maldonado took charge on offense, going 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of runs. Strong pitching from Winter and relief from Bowe allowed just one run for the Flames, resulting in a final score of 4-1.

Once again charging out of the gates, the Irish stunned Delaware with seven runs in the bottom half of the first inning in their fourth game. The Blue Hens were never able to recover from Notre Dame’s balanced attack from Fleury, Maldonado, Jorgensborg, sophomore Kathryn Lux and junior Kasey O’Connor. Sophomore pitcher Brittany O’Donnell was nearly perfect in her three innings on the mound, giving up no hits and walking one. The Blue Hens were overpowered, as the Irish won by an 11-0 margin in just five innings.

In the team’s final matchup in Orlando, it faced Miami (Ohio) for a second time, this time led by the offensive efforts of Maldonado, who brought in a runner on a fourth-inning home run. This time the Irish scored in each of the first two innings to give themselves a comfortable leg up on the Redhawks. The team finished up the weekend with a dominant 4-1 victory.

Notre Dame’s next series of games will be Feb. 26-27 at the College of Charleston Invitational.