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ND Softball: Confidence high with undefeated record still in place

Kelsey Manning | Friday, March 4, 2011

After kicking off the season 9-0, a record start, the Irish look to continue their winning streak against a number of premier programs, including No. 3 Alabama this weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.

“The whole team is really confident because this is the best start we’ve ever had,” senior captain Heather Johnson said. “I think everyone’s really excited.”

After sweeping the field last weekend at the College of Charleston Invitational with a double shutout Saturday and a strong offensive performance on Sunday, the Irish hope to capitalize off their momentum heading into the weekend stretch.

Johnson said, “having quality bats and scoring when people were in scoring position” was a highlight from last weekend’s victories in the Cougar Classic.

The Irish did not leave many batters on base, especially in a 10-1 victory over Marist in which the Irish totaled 13 hits, 10 runs, and nine RBIs in 27 at bats.

“We need to keep that up,” Johnson said. “Our place hitters did a nice job keeping us in the games.”

With stronger competition in the form of Longwood, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Fordham awaiting them this weekend, the Irish will look to keep errors to a minimum and stay strong defensively.

“Defensively, we’ve been working on a lot of short game because were going to see a lot of fast batters,” Johnson said. “We’re just going have to catch and get rid of the ball as fast as possible, so that’s been our main focus this week.”

Of the matchups to come, Alabama could be the toughest test for Notre Dame, as the Crimson Tide boast a 16-0 record this season and a 4-0 record all-time against the Irish.

“[Alabama] should be a good matchup,” senior catcher Alexia Clay said. “They are always a really good team and play in a tough conference. Two years ago we played against them and lost 18-1, so it will be interesting to see how we match up with them now.”

The team has been making steady progress this season especially in terms of team unity, which has paid dividends on the field and increased their confidence overall, Johnson said.

“I think if we just play our game, we’ll be fine,” Johnson said.

The Irish kick off the weekend’s games with a matchup against Longwood (8-0) at 10 a.m. Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.