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ND Softball: Irish prepared to battle Badgers

Kelsey Manning | Tuesday, April 5, 2011

With a coach that just captured her 400th victory, a captain that was named Big East Player of the Week after smashing Notre Dame’s career RBI record, a pitching staff that is finally hitting its stride and five wins in their first six home games, the Irish are coming off a successful week. With that momentum, Notre Dame (21-7, 3-0 Big East) will head to Madison, Wis., to take on the Badgers.

“We head up to Wisconsin to hopefully get another win,” junior outfielder Alexa Maldonado said. “We just want to take momentum from this weekend and roll into our next games. If we do that, we should beat them. We need to stay consistent as a team, and the wins will keep coming.”

The weekend consisted of a complete dismantling of

Providence College in a three-game series, with two of the victories lasting just five innings and a shutout in Sunday’s game. Sunday also marked Irish coach Deanna Gumpf’s 400th career victory, an achievement that only increases her significant lead as the most winning coach in program history.

Sunday’s shutout effort was a joint effort by freshman Laura Winter and senior Jody Valdiva.

Winter in particular played a key role in Notre Dame’s recent string of victories, which began last Thursday when she struck out a career-high 12 batters against Purdue.

“The pitching staff has really stepped up [its] game,” Winter said. “We come out every day and make sure that we walk away feeling like we had a productive workout. Even though pitching has helped us win the recent ball games, our bats have begun to produce the hits we need to keep [us] in the games.”

Leading Notre Dame’s offensive charge was Big East Player of the Week and senior captain Heather Johnson, who went 12-for-17 with three doubles, three homers, 14 RBIs and 24 total bases in the week’s five games. In the process, the senior slugger set a new career record with five RBIs in the opening game against Providence and the new Notre Dame all-time RBI record with 176.

With every element of the game starting to click for the Irish, the departure from Melissa Cook Stadium should not be a problem.

“Even though home games are great, it is nice to go out and beat a team on unfamiliar turf,” Winter said. “We have been working hard to keep the intensity strong and are excited to dominate with our impenetrable defense and relentless bats.”

Although Wisconsin (17-13, 1-3 Big Ten) is coming off a big win over Michigan State, the Irish have a week’s worth of achievements behind them and will look to use that success to propel them forward.

Notre Dame will take on the Badgers today in Madison, Wis., at 5 p.m.